Was the shooting of Ashli Babbitt justifiable?
By Mark Alexander
There was a development last week in the death of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick — the circumstances of which I previously covered in detail. Two "Trump supporter" thugs were arrested for assaulting Officer Sicknick, spraying him with bear repellant, a nonlethal irritant similar to pepper spray that still may have been a factor in his death. For that reason, the arrests were for "assault" not "homicide."
As I noted in my original analysis, "There is speculation [his] death was associated with chemical irritants" sprayed by rioters. I also noted that his autopsy and the medical examiner's cause-of-death determination should be released now, not months after being spun about in Pelosi's "9/11-type commission," which is all about political theater, not facts.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer might use these arrests to pivot away from the fact that they disgracefully used the death of Officer Sicknick (a Trump supporter) as political fodder just days ahead of their post-presidential impeachment charade. (Recall that House Democrats cited the New York Times's false claim that Sicknick had been bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher as factual grounds for their impeachment.) But as it stands, we are no closer to understanding how or why Brian Sicknick died — other than the fake narrative spread by the Times and other mass media outlets.
For the record, the only other case in the past 10 years in which a Capitol Police officer shot and killed someone posing an imminent threat to a member of Congress was on 14 June 2017, when officers stopped an attempted massacre by a leftist activist Bernie Sanders supporter in Virginia. The assailant had already near-fatally shot House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and wounded three others when members of Scalise's security detail engaged and shot him. It is highly likely that many of the 24 other House members present that day would have been murdered if the assailant had not been stopped by the two Capitol Police officers.
However, there is nothing comparable about the circumstances of the 2017 shooting and those in the shooting of Babbitt.
To be clear, regarding all the hyperbolic Demo and Leftmedia claims about the "armed insurrection" in the Capitol, in a review of the hundreds of arrests associated with the protest inside and outside the Capitol building — most being misdemeanor trespassing or disorderly conduct charges — there were two firearms charges. Neither of those charges occurred on the Capitol grounds, and both were for violations of DC's onerous gun regulations. There is no evidence that either of those individuals were ever in the Capitol building. After a review of thousands of hours of video, there is no evidence of any firearms inside the building other than those carried by law enforcement officers (LEOs).
The only shot fired in the Capitol building was that which killed Babbitt.
By way of disclaimer, it is very difficult as a former LEO to evaluate the death of an officer without outrage, or an officer-involved shooting death without a predisposed bias in favor of the officer. I exercise much more caution than most in either case because, unlike the vast majority of armchair commentators, I understand what it means to walk in a police officer's shoes — often hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of sheer terror.
Ashli Babbitt, a 34-year-old Air Force veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was previously a supporter of Barack Obama before becoming a Donald Trump supporter. But her rational perspective as the latter was obscured, according to a detailed profile, after she became an adherent of the QAnon sickthink conspiracy promoted by InfoWars agitator and conspiracy-theory charlatan Alex Jones, and others.
On her way to the Capitol building, Ashli was posting social media messages to friends: "We are walking to the Capitol in a mob. ... There is a sea of nothing but red, white and blue patriots for Trump. God bless America, patriots."
Two hours later, after following some of those mobsters into the building, Ashli, a five-foot, two-inch, 110-pound unarmed woman, was shot and killed by a ranking Capitol Police officer on the other side of a door to the hallway leading to the congressional chamber. She was amid a group of destructive protesters attempting to breach that door.
I note, however, that her diminutive stature doesn't mean she wasn't necessarily a threat, but the fact that she was unarmed should certainly have been a consideration in the decision to use deadly force.
Notably, as is clear in the graphic videos of the shooting here and here, there are four uniformed officers protecting Babbitt's side of the doors, and within feet of Babbitt's backdrop were at least four additional heavily armed riot police and one or more plain-clothed officers. It is fortunate those officers did not suffer collateral injuries when she was shot.
After her death, there was a review board convened to evaluate the circumstances of the shooting. According to The Wall Street Journal in early February: "The Justice Department said it was ... having the Washington Metropolitan Police Department examine the shooting. The police investigators have made an initial determination that charges against the officer aren't warranted..."
But much as the case with Officer Sicknick's death, no official details have been released in the Babbitt case.
According to the Babbitt family legal counsel, Maryland attorney Terrell Roberts: "This lack of transparency impedes public scrutiny which is necessary to hold government officials accountable in a free society. It also interferes with the ability of Ashli's family to obtain justice for their loss. We will continue to investigate this matter. We intend to take appropriate legal action when our investigation has been completed."
In a statement from Roberts, he insists that her death constitutes "an unjustified use of deadly force which violated her constitutional rights," adding, "It is clear from video footage that Ashli did not pose a danger to the officer, or any other person, when she was shot. Ashli was unarmed. She did not assault anyone. She did not threaten to harm anyone. There was no excuse for taking her life."
He added: "The officer who shot Ashli never attempted to arrest her. Nor did he call on his fellow officers to arrest her. Instead, he fired a shot into her chest. Witnesses confirm that the officer did not give Ashli a single verbal warning prior to firing. In fact, Ashli was not even aware that the officer was present, as he was located in the doorway of a room off to the side of her field of vision." He concluded: "You don't use deadly force unless you are confronted with a threat to your life or a threat to somebody else's life. There was no immediate threat to the officer or anyone else. That corridor was clear of congressional members."
Babbitt's husband Aaron protested: "She didn't have any weapons on her. I don't know why she had to die in the People's House. She loved her country and she was doing what she thought was right to support her country, joining up with like-minded people that also love their president and their country. She was voicing her opinion and got killed for it."
Of course, Ashli Babbitt did more than voice her opinion. She also followed a group of violent thugs into the Capitol building. That, more than anything else, is what caused her death. But it doesn't mean her death was justified.
According to Mark Schamel, attorney for the Capitol Police officer: "In every analysis, this was an absolutely justified use of force. ... He was acting within his training. Lethal force is appropriate if the situation puts you or others in fear of imminent bodily harm." Schamel added, "What he did was unbelievable heroism."
Despite his attorney's utterly asinine assertion of "unbelievable heroism," the kind of tripe spewed by someone who has never risked his life for anyone else, I'm sure the officer involved does not believe he was heroic — whether he discharged his weapon justifiably or negligently. I'm sure he is devastated, and his life is forever altered.
Witnesses claim that the officer issued no warning before firing, but Schamel says, "It's a false narrative that he issued no verbal commands or warnings. He was screaming, 'Stay back! Stay back! Don't come in here!'"
There is speculation that the officer is claiming he shot Babbitt over concern that her backpack might contain a bomb — there were pipe bombs left outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee on the day of the riot, and the FBI is seeking information to identify that bomber.
Such a claim would strain credulity. First, there was no attempt by any of the officers on Babbitt's side of the door to arrest her or investigate the backpack. Second, most people who attend rallies bring backpacks with provisions.
According to Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), "When they broke the glass in the back, the lieutenant that was there ... didn't have a choice at that time. The mob was going to come through the door, there was [sic] a lot of members and staff that were in danger at the time. And when he [drew] his weapon, that's a decision that's very hard for anyone to make and, once you draw your weapon like that, you have to defend yourself with deadly force."
Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases when officers draw their service weapon, they do not have to shoot.
The truth in this tragic and chaotic moment lies somewhere between the opposing attorneys' descriptions.
As for my perspective, I think all those who have rioted across our nation should be dumped on a remote deserted island where they can do others no more harm.
But to the point, it's difficult to put myself in the officer's situation. My best estimate is that the real threat he perceived was the surge of people expected to follow Ashli through that door. Unfortunately for her, she was at the front of the line.
The officer fired in the heat of the moment, and it was a very heated moment. I have never been in the midst of a massive protest (except for Red Square in Moscow in 1990 — and I was not armed). But I have been in situations as an LEO, weapon drawn down on a perp, adrenaline flowing especially after a pursuit. It is a battle between the adrenaline and making good and rational decisions in the heat of the moment — and in this case the adrenaline may have won.
Keep in mind that most Capitol Police officers receive the same basic training all federal officers receive, but in terms of readiness, they are more like security guards than street LEOs, the latter of whom deal with life-threatening intervention frequently.
Finally, one motivation for the suppression of details regarding Babbitt's death is to avoid additional attacks by more unhinged QAnon conscripts, some of whom, according to the radical leftist race-bait Southern Poverty Law Center, want to make her a martyr for their cause. I am likewise sure that there is an effort to protect the officer involved.
But there is a stark contrast between protecting the identity of the Capitol Police officer for his safety and that of the larger community, and exposing the identity of police officers in other high-profile officer-involved deaths of unarmed suspects.
When the identity of a police officer in a high-profile case fits the Democrat Party agenda — as in the current Minneapolis case, in which the city just gave the family of a "victim" a whopping $27 million before the jurors in the officer's trial had been seated — the identity of that officer is everywhere, 24/7. That officer has been thrown under the bus.
When it does not fit the Democrat Party agenda, the whole apparatus of the state and media protects the officer's identity.
Bottom line: The identity of all officers should be protected until investigations are resolved. Otherwise, in some instances Democrats and their media outlets will set those officers up for trial in the court of public opinion.
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.