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Politics News

Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt exonerated in internal probe

A Capitol Police memo obtained by NBC News says “no further action will be taken in this matter” after the officer was exonerated for use of force.
Image: A vigil for Ashli Babbitt at the Legislative Mall in Dover, Del., on Jan. 20, 2020.
A vigil for Ashli Babbitt at the Legislative Mall in Dover, Del.Adam Monacelli / Courier-Post / USA Today Network

The Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt outside a door of the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot has been formally exonerated after an internal investigation, according to a department memo obtained by NBC News.

The officer, whose name has not been released, opened fire on Babbitt as she and a mob of other Trump supporters tried to forcefully enter the Capitol.

Video of the shooting showed Babbitt in front of a crowd of rioters trying to get through a door leading to where members of Congress were being evacuated on the House side of the building.

The Justice Department announced in April that no charges were being brought against the officer. The exoneration by the Capitol Police wraps up the last remaining investigation into the incident.

A memo from the commander of the Capitol Police’s Office of Personal Responsibility says “no further action will be taken in this matter” after the officer was exonerated for use of force.

A lawyer for Babbitt's family declined to comment.

The officer's lawyer, Mark Schamel, said in a Monday statement that the decision to clear the officer was the "only correct conclusion following the events of January 6."

"The bravery shown by the Lieutenant in organizing and coordinating the defense of the House and its members and staff was nothing short of heroic," Schamel said. "The Lieutenant’s conduct saved lives and helped to end the violent insurrection."

In a statement released Monday, the Capitol Police said the officer's actions were consistent with the officer's training and department policy, which states that deadly force may be used "only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury."

"The actions of the officer in this case potentially saved Members and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters who forced their way into the U.S. Capitol and to the House Chamber where Members and staff were steps away," the statement added.

Ashli Babbitt.
Ashli Babbitt.via KNSD

Babbitt, an Air Force veteran, was a decorated security forces controller who served multiple Middle East tours from 2004 to 2016, according to Air Force records.

In recent years, she posted numerous messages on social media indicating she was an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump and a follower and promoter of many well-known radical conservative activists as well as leaders of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.

Babbitt was one of five people, including a Capitol Police officer, to die in or around the riot.

In its statement in April, the Justice Department said that the investigation did not find evidence that the officer had violated any federal laws and that there was nothing to contradict that he believed it was necessary to shoot at Babbitt, 35, "in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber."

"Officials examined video footage posted on social media, statements from the officer involved and other officers and witnesses to the events, physical evidence from the scene of the shooting, and the results of an autopsy," and "based on that investigation, officials determined that there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution," the statement added.

Babbitt’s death has been promoted as an unjust killing by some on the far right who have sought to downplay the violence at the storming of the Capitol, and they have demanded that the identity of the shooter be publicly released. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., has said Babbitt's death was "an execution," and he accused the officer who shot her of "lying in wait" to do so.

Trump previously made the false claim that the officer who shot Babbitt was the "head of security" for a "high-ranking" Democratic member of Congress.