In the chaos that followed the Capitol Riot on Jan. 6, Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed by Lt. Michael Byrd. He then focused his attention on the glass doors in the lobby of the House of Representatives chamber.
Around 60 to 80 House staffers and members were kept inside. It was Byrd's responsibility to protect them.
Byrd and some other officers from the U.S. Capitol Police erected a wall of furniture to protect the Capitol from the rioters.
We were effectively trapped in our place, Byrd stated in an exclusive interview with NBC News Lester Holt. This was his first public statement since the riot. There was no escape. There was no other way out.
You can find more information at NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET/5.30 p.m. CT.
They can get through that door and into the House chamber, said Byrd. He gave permission for NBC News to use his name because authorities refused to release it.
Image: On Jan. 6, 2021, supporters of President Donald Trump marched inside the Capitol. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP – Getty Images file
His police radio was Byrd's link to the outside world and inside. It rang with alarming messages for several minutes, crackling for several minutes.
Officers shouted for help. His colleagues were under attack with chemical agents by rioters. An officer's report was blown to pieces.
Byrd stated that it was broadcast live over the air. I replied, "OK, this is getting serious."
Soon, a large number of protestors arrived. As rioters broke into the Capitol Police's glass doors, Byrd, a 28 year veteran, took up defensive posture and held his gun.
He claimed that he shouted at them repeatedly to get their attention. The mob continued pressing on, and then a single rioter attempted to climb through one door.
The next sequence was captured on video. Babbitt was hit in the shoulder by Byrd's first shot.
Babbitt, 35-year-old Air Force veteran and avid Trump supporter, fell to her death from her injuries.
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Later, her death became a rallying cry of the far right which referred to Babbitt as an exemplary martyr. Trump claimed that she was murdered and falsely suggested that the officer who shot Babbitt worked for a high ranking Democrat.
The incident turned Byrd's life around, as he is Black. After his name was published on right-wing websites, Byrd has been hiding in hiding for several months.
However, Byrd stated that he was certain that he made the right choice given the circumstances.
Byrd stated that he was proud to have saved so many lives. My fellow officers and staff members, as well Congressmen, were in grave danger. That's my job.
Byrd claimed that he didn't know if the person he shot was carrying any weapons. He found out later that night that the rioter had been unarmed.
When asked why he pulled the trigger Byrd replied that it was an option last resort.
He told Holt that I had tried to wait as long I could. I hoped and prayed that no one attempted to enter those doors. I had to intervene to save the lives and safety of Congressmen and myself, and of my fellow officers.
The Justice Department and Capitol Police have cleared Byrd of any wrongdoing. The Justice Department and the Capitol Police announced that they had not decided to indict Byrd. They stated in April that they had reviewed video and other evidence on the scene.
Federal prosecutors stated in a statement that there was no evidence that the officer fired one shot at Ms. Babbitt at the time of the incident.
The chants became louder
Byrd, a Washingtonian, was able to go about his business in the days that preceded Jan. 6. He met with other Capitol Police officers to discuss the security plan that would be used for the certification of Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 Presidential election.
He said that we didn't get any specific information that would force us to adjust or change our posture. It felt like something I've done for the past 28 years.
Byrd stated that there was one problem: His command had fewer officers due to Covid-19-related absences.
Images of violent clashes between Trump supporters and others protesting the election results were broadcast live to television. However, Byrd was stationed outside of the House chamber and couldn't view the video. His police radio was his only source of information.
Joint Session Of Congress Confirms Presidential Election Results (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg via Getty Images
Byrd didn't know how many officers had been injured when he started hearing about them. Byrd stated that he heard a more alarming message over the radio at one point: A report of shots being fired. He later learned that this was false.
Byrd claimed that Byrd heard radio chatter warning of rioters entering the building and ran inside the chamber, telling the House members to hide behind their chairs and to avoid doors and windows.
He claimed that he had told them about pipe bombs being found near the building, and that rioters were using violence against officers. Byrd stated that he had told them to get their gas masks.
He also gave one additional crucial instruction to the House members: He instructed them to conceal their identities in case they were confronted by the rioters.
Byrd stated that it was crucial to tell the members to take off their pins so they could blend in. To make them look as staff as possible, remove their jackets.
Byrd ran out of the chamber and saw the House Chaplain take the place he had left on the podium. The House chaplain began to share a prayer with Congressmen.
Byrd stated that it was at this point that members began to fear that serious injury or harm could befall them.
Byrd stated that he and the other officers set up the barricade quickly using all the furniture they could find.
Byrd stated that it was at this point that I realized they were here. The chants became louder. Although I couldn't understand what they were saying it sounded almost like there were hundreds of people outside that door.
A person in the crowd captured video of two officers standing in front the door. They eventually gave up, despite being outnumbered.
Byrd claimed that he didn't know any officers were present. He couldn't see through the furniture on his side of the doors to determine how many were there or if they had weapons.
He said that it was impossible for him to see what was on either side.
He did however see Babbitt, now known as Babbitt, start to emerge through the broken glass.
Byrd stated that she couldn't see her hands, what was in her backpack, or what her intentions were. They had been violent in the past.
This was Byrd's first shot at a weapon in his 28-year career with the force. He helped the House members evacuate the building over the next few minutes. He stated that it was not until that evening that he had the opportunity to see TV coverage of the Capitol riot.
Babbitt's lawyer described the incident in a manner similar to an ambush. He claimed that the officer did not give any warning before pulling the trigger. Babbitts family indicated its intent to file a civil suit against the Capitol Police. It had previously filed court papers seeking the identity of the officer who shot Babbitt.
Terry Roberts, the attorney, did not respond when asked.
Byrd claimed that he felt pain in the throat for several days following the incident. He was yelling at protesters to stop and step back while they banged on the glass doors.
Some claimed that Byrd had a political agenda.
He said, I do my job as a Republican, Democrat, or for White. Your affiliation doesn't matter to me.
He pointed out that Trump escorted him through Capitol many times when he was president. Byrd stated that if he were in the Capitol, and I was responsible, I would do the same for him and his family.
Within days of Jan. 6, Byrds' name was leaked to right-wing media outlets and online forums. The threats followed.
They threatened to kill me and cut off my head, Byrd stated, adding that there were also racial attacks.
It's very disheartening because I knew I was doing my job.
He said that the hardest part was the impact on his family. As Byrds lamented the loss of his life, a tear fell from Byrds's eye and trickled down his right side cheek.
Sometimes you just can't help but cry," Byrd stated, his voice becoming heavy. You felt like you did your job. You protected our country's legislative leaders and fought for democracy and their establishment.
A Byrds incident from the past is also getting renewed attention online. In 2019, he left behind his service weapon in a public bathroom. It was discovered by another officer.
Byrd, in an interview with NBC News, described the incident to be a horrible mistake.
It was my fault. It was a penalty. He said that I could move on.
After remaining silent for seven years as the investigations progressed, Byrd stated that he wanted speak out to correct the misrepresentations of what he did that day. Even if it means exposing him to more threats, vitriol, and even death.
Byrd stated that it is something frightening. Again, I feel that I was courageous on January 6th and it is time for me now to show the same courage.
He stated that he is aware that there are people who disagree about his actions on that day, and that they might always.
Byrd stated that he hoped they would understand what I did. The members of Congress were in imminent danger. I want to tell the truth.