“I know that day I saved countless lives,” Lt. Michael Byrd said in an interview with “NBC Nightly News.” “I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that’s my job.”
The officer fatally shot Babbitt in the shoulder while she climbed through a window that led into the Speaker’s Lobby, adjacent to the House chamber, while lawmakers were evacuating.
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” Byrd said of the incident in the doorway. “I hoped and prayed no one tried to enter through those doors. But their failure to comply required me to take the appropriate action to save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.”
A Washington native who has been in law enforcement for 28 years, Byrd said he followed his training and repeatedly yelled at the mob, telling them to stop their advance toward the House chamber.
He said he was “taking a tactical stance” with his gun drawn while the mob approached. “You’re ultimately hoping that your commands would be complied with. Unfortunately, they were not.”
‘I just want the truth to be told’
In the interview with “NBC Nightly News,” Byrd said Trump’s comments were “disheartening,” and denied that he acted out of political animus. He protected Trump during his presidency when he visited the Capitol.
“I hope they understand I did my job,” Byrd said of the Republicans who’ve criticized him. “There was imminent threat and danger to the members of Congress. I just want the truth to be told.”
Many of the conspiracies have been fueled by the lack of transparency from Capitol Police and the investigators who reviewed the incident. Byrd spoke out on his own accord and has never been named by any government entity, even though it’s common in many jurisdictions for police departments to publicly release the names of officers who are involved in fatal shootings.
Uncertainty about Byrd’s identity created a new rallying cry — “who shot Ashli Babbitt?” — which Trump has brought up at recent rallies. Byrd’s name has been floating around right-wing websites, and he said in the at-times emotional interview Thursday that he and his family have received death threats, including racist threats.
“They talked about killing me, cutting off my head,” said Byrd.
The family says it’s considering a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Byrd, and they’ve already filed a civil lawsuit seeking records and other information from the police about the incident.
“The US Congress wants to protect this man. He’s got friends in high places and they want to protect him,” Roberts said in the interview. “And they’ve done a pretty good job of it. … I don’t think it’s a proud moment for the US Capitol Police or the US Congress.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
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