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Officer who shot Ashli Babbitt in Jan. 6 riot goes public

Lt. Michael Byrd told NBC News he opened fire as a last resort as rioters were close to breaching the doors leading to the House chamber.

The video above is from April 2021.

The U.S. Capitol police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, one of the people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, is revealing himself for the first time.

In an interview with NBC News published Thursday, Lt. Michael Byrd said he opened fire as a last resort as rioters were close to breaching the doors leading to the House chamber. Byrd said about 60 to 80 House members were in the chamber and it was his job to protect them.

“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said, according to NBC News. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out."

Byrd recalled his police radio was broadcasting reports of officers down and screams from other officers who were under attack, NBC reported.

The 28-year veteran said that as rioters tried smashing the glass doors to the chamber, he yelled at them to get back. 

When Babbitt tried to climb through, Byrd fired one shot, hitting her in the shoulder. She later died of her injuries. Byrd told NBC he didn't know at the time if Babbitt was armed. He said he found out later that night she was not.

U.S. Capitol Police announced Monday its internal investigation found Byrd acted lawfully and in line with department policy, although did not reveal his name. Federal prosecutors also cleared the officer of any wrongdoing after an investigation into the shooting and did not publicly name him.

Byrd says he believes he made the right decision given what was happening.

“I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd told NBC. “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.”

Byrd has received multiple death threats after his named was leaked onto right-wing websites, NBC reported. Byrd said he gave the network permission to release his name after authorities had declined to do so.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.