After eight months of silence, US Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd’s decision to out himself on TV on Thursday, Aug. 26, as the officer who killed Ashli Babbitt surprised many Americans, perhaps including his own law enforcement agency.
When Coffee or Die Magazine asked his department whether Byrd would be made available for other interviews about his shooting of the Trump supporter during a Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, a spokesperson said it’s not facilitating any “interviews this week, to include the one last night with NBC.”
But in a later email, the department conceded Byrd’s exclusive interview with NBC Nightly News’ Lester Holt didn’t violate any policy.
“Officers have a First Amendment right to speak,” the spokesperson said.
The Capitol Police declined to say whether Byrd received permission from superiors to conduct the interview, and did not answer any other questions from Coffee or Die, including whether he required more protection now that his name is known.
Babbitt, 35, a US Air Force veteran, QAnon conspiracy theorist, and strident supporter of former President Donald Trump, died after being shot by a single round from Byrd’s service pistol.
Video footage showed Babbitt trying to breach shattered glass doors into the Speaker’s Lobby before she fell to the floor, blood pooling around her.
Twin probes by the Department of Justice and Capitol Police cleared Byrd. Although he faces no charges or disciplinary actions for the lethal shooting of the unarmed woman, his superiors continued to cloak his identity.
In a Monday written statement, the department said Byrd and his family received “numerous credible and specific threats for actions that were taken as part of the job of all our officers: defending the Congress, Members, staff and the democratic process.”
That didn’t stop Trump and supporters from portraying her as a patriotic martyr and demanding federal officials identify by name the officer who shot her.