The attorney representing Ashli Babbitt’s family said the unarmed Trump supporter was the victim of an “ambush” without warning.
Babbitt, 35, a 14-year Air Force veteran, was killed during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot when she tried to climb through a broken window next to a barricaded door outside the Speaker’s Lobby, which leads to the House chamber. While there is video of Babbitt being shot, no audible commands can be heard before a single shot is fired, striking her in the left shoulder.
The family is reportedly planning to file a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Capitol Police and the officer who shot her.
In speaking with Real Clear Investigations this week, attorney Terry Roberts, who specializes in police misconduct cases, insisted the officer failed to give any verbal warnings before he fired.
“It’s not debatable. There was no warning,” Roberts said. “I would call what he did an ambush. I don’t think he’s a good officer. I think he’s reckless.”
Babbitt was shot and killed for what would have likely amounted to unlawful entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds had she been arrested, according to RCI, which cited police sources.
The officer has not been publicly identified, although Capitol Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett suggested it was Lt. Michael Byrd while testifying before Congress. There has been no official confirmation.
Roberts also said other officers have told him the shooting “doesn’t pass muster.”
“No one has come forward to say this was justified homicide, not even the Justice Department,” the Babbitt family attorney said.
“The way he did it — hiding in a room and then popping out and firing — is a problem,” Roberts said. “If his objective was to stop her, he didn’t need to shoot. He could have got out in front of her and used a number of other methods of less-lethal force. He could have tried to cuff her.”
A veteran Capitol Police officer speaking on the condition of anonymity told RCI the officer wasn’t following department firearms training, which included keeping the finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
“His trigger finger shouldn’t be inside the trigger guard and the gun shouldn’t be pointed at other officers, the fellow officer source said. “He’s even pointing it in the direction of a member of Congress.”
As the article noted, U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., a former professional mixed-martial-arts fighter had mixed in with the protesters in front of the chamber doors.
The officer’s lawyer, Mark Schamel, told RCI his client did give a warning, explaining that it was not picked up on footage because he was wearing a mask and the video was from the other side of the doors in a loud room.
“It’s a false narrative that he issued no verbal commands or warnings,” Schamel said. “He was screaming, ‘Stay back! Stay back! Don’t come in here!'”
Not only did he say the officer “was acting within his training,” the attorney said his actions were heroic.
“Lethal force is appropriate if the situation puts you or others in fear of imminent bodily harm,” Schamel stated, adding, “There should be a training video on how he handled that situation. What he did was unbelievable heroism.”
Rep. Mullin, who recently said he hugged the distraught officer afterward and told him he “did what you had to do,” suggested a verbal warning was given.
“If you’re going to present your weapon in a manner and give commands and they still don’t listen and they still approach, you don’t have a choice,” he explained. “Either you have to, at that point, discharge your weapon in a manner of self-defense or that weapon’s going to be taken away from you. It’s going to be used against you and put all of our lives in danger too.”
In April, some three months after Babbitt’s death, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced that after having “conducted a thorough investigation” they “will not pursue criminal charges against the U.S. Capitol Police officer involved in the fatal shooting of 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt.”
“In order to establish a violation of this statute, prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer acted willfully to deprive Ms. Babbitt of a right protected by the Constitution or other law,” the DOJ said. “Prosecutors would have to prove not only that the officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that the officer did so ‘willfully,’ which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean that the officer acted with a bad purpose to disregard the law.”
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