(USA Features) The family of Ashli Babbitt, the unarmed Air Force veteran killed while attempting to breach a door to the House chamber during the Jan. 6 Capitol Building riot, is suing over her death.
Babbitt, 35, who served in uniform for 12 years and was an avid supporter of former President Donald Trump, was shot by a still-unnamed Capitol Police officer in an “ambush,” according to the family attorney, Terry Roberts.
At the center of the debate over the shooting, which was caught on video and went viral the day of the breach, is what Roberts says was a lack of warning by the officer.
The video shows an officer off to the left of Babbitt as she attempted to climb through the panel of a door whose glass had been shattered.
The officer is seen emerging, handgun drawn, then firing a single shot, after which Babbitt fell back through the opening to the floor before being attended to by other rioters. Shot near the upper shoulder and neck area, she would later die from her wound.
Roberts, a personal injury attorney who specializes in cases of police misconduct, disagrees with the officer’s lawyer who said his client yelled a verbal warning to Babbitt before firing on her.
Six months after the incident, Capitol Police still have not released the officer’s name.
“…Several sources have identified him as Lt. Michael L. Byrd, a 53-year-old veteran of the force who was serving as commander of the House Chamber Section of the Capitol Police on Jan. 6. He has not returned to duty and remains on paid administrative leave,” RealClearInvestigations reported.
Whoever the officer is that fired on Babbitt has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Justice Department.
“It’s not debatable. There was no warning. I would call what he did an ambush. I don’t think he’s a good officer. I think he’s reckless,” Roberts said.
He added that according to the viral video, no one in the vicinity of Babbitt is seen scrambling for cover or otherwise trying to get out of any line of fire.
“If he’s yelling, they certainly aren’t showing any reaction to it. If he was giving any kind of warning, why didn’t they react?” Roberts continued.
The officer’s attorney disagreed, however.
“It’s a false narrative that he issued no verbal commands or warnings,” Mark Schamel, the officer’s lawyer, told the outlet. “He was screaming, ‘Stay back! Stay back! Don’t come in here!”
Schamel also said that the officer was within his rights to fire on Babbitt.
“He was acting within his training. Lethal force is appropriate if the situation puts you or others in fear of imminent bodily harm,” he said.
“There should be a training video on how he handled that situation. What he did was unbelievable heroism,” Schamel added.
But others disagreed, including a former Capitol Police officer.
“I’m not sure how he was justified shooting her when there was a SWAT team right behind her,” the officer told RealClearPolitics. “They saw no immediate threat.”
Roberts said the officer who fired could have chosen instead to retreat if he feared for his life, as other officers on his side of the doorway did.
The suit will seek more than $10 million in damages from the officer and the Capitol Police department, reports added.