Lt. Michael Byrd, the U.S. Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 insurrection, is telling his side of the story.
Byrd sat down with NBC’s Lester Holt for a revealing interview that aired on the network on Thursday. In it, he recounted the events of the fateful day a horde of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and opened up about the fallout he’s faced afterward.
Byrd said that the shot he fired at Babbitt’s shoulder was the first in his 28 years as an officer.
“I spent countless years preparing for such a moment. You ultimately hope that moment never occurs but you prepare as best you can,” he told Holt. “I know that day, I saved countless lives. 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 lieutenant said he had no idea whether or not the person he shot was carrying a weapon. It was only later that he found out that the rioter was an unarmed woman.
When asked why he pulled the trigger, Byrd called it a “last resort.”
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” he said. “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.”
Byrd has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Justice Department and the Capitol Police but the Babbitt family is trying to prove otherwise. Their attorney has described the incident as an “ambush,” alleging that the officer gave no warning before he pulled the trigger. Babbitt’s family has also signaled its intention to file a civil suit against the Capitol Police.
Byrd, who’s been in hiding since the incident, had his name quickly leaked out to right-wing media and online forums in the days following Jan. 6.
“They talked about killing me, cutting off my head,” Byrd said, adding that there were also racist attacks. “It’s all disheartening, because I know I was doing my job.”
Still, Byrd explained that the hardest part of the fallout from the events of Jan. 6 has been the effect on his family.
“Sometimes, you can’t do anything but cry,” Byrd said, shedding a tear. “You felt like you did your job. You helped protect our legislative leaders of this country and you fought for democracy and keeping them established.”
Despite some Trump supporters’ attempts to label Babbitt a martyr and Byrd a coldblooded killer, the officer maintained that the killing was in no way politically motivated.
“I do my job for Republican, for Democrat, for white, for Black, red, blue, green,” he said. “I don’t care about your affiliation.”
He also noted that he escorted Trump through the Capitol a number of times while he was president. “If he was in the Capitol and I was responsible for him, I’d do the same thing for him and his family,” Byrd said.
Byrd ultimately said that he’s chosen to come forward now in the hope that it will counter misrepresentations of his actions that day, even if doing so exposes him to further threats and vitriol.
“It’s something that is frightening,” Byrd said. “Again, I believe I showed the utmost courage on January 6, and it’s time for me to do that now.”