Can we talk big-time hypocrisy? The Right has gifted martyrdom to the late Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot and killed while rioting in the Capitol January 6. These past six months they have called for the name of the law enforcement officer who shot her, but the officer was cleared of wrongdoing, and his name was not released.
Now parts of rightie media have named a name, based on their analysis of the video of the shooting. I am not going to repeat the name here, because the wider his name is known the more peril he is in. And I have no opinion as to whether the man named is the real shooter. I do have an opinion that the Justice Department was right to clear him of wrongdoing.
To review, on January 6 Ms. Babbitt was in the forefront of a port of the mob who came up against the barricaded door of the Speaker’s Lobby, a space outside the main entrance of the House chamber. Members of Congress and their staffs were escaping through the lobby at the time. Rioters shattered the glass on the doors. In the videos, you can see a law enforcement officer standing behind the doors with a gun drawn. Babbitt, with the help of other rioters, was squeezing herself through an open space to get into the lobby. You can see her in this photo; she’s wearing the striped backpack.
I am told that in some videos, security staff can be heard shouting “Get back! Get down!” I have not watched every video myself to verify that, but in this one you can hear rioters yell, “he’s got a gun.” One officer is plainly visible pointing his handgun. And as Babbitt’s head came through the window, he fired. She was struck in the neck and declared dead at the hospital.
The righties make much of the fact that Babbitt was not armed. But the security staff at that time had no way to know who was armed. And in any event, by then police all over the building were being routed and beaten up by the overwhelming force of the mob. Armed or not armed, the rioters were a clear danger to the legislators still a few feet away, either evacuating or still in the House chamber. This photo taken from within the House chamber suggests that if those doors had been broken through, more people would have been shot.
It is regretful that anyone died in that mob. But how deluded do you have to be to believe that Babbitt died “for no reason“?
The focus of the criminal investigation was to determine whether federal prosecutors could prove that the officer violated any federal laws, concentrating on the possible application of 18 U.S.C. § 242, a federal criminal civil rights statute. In order to establish a violation of this statute, prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer acted willfully to deprive Ms. Babbitt of a right protected by the Constitution or other law, here the Fourth Amendment right not to be subjected to an unreasonable seizure. Prosecutors would have to prove not only that the officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that the officer did so “willfully,” which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean that the officer acted with a bad purpose to disregard the law. As this requirement has been interpreted by the courts, evidence that an officer acted out of fear, mistake, panic, misperception, negligence, or even poor judgment cannot establish the high level of intent required under Section 242.
The investigation revealed no evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer willfully committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242. Specifically, the investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber. Acknowledging the tragic loss of life and offering condolences to Ms. Babbitt’s family, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Department of Justice have therefore closed the investigation into this matter.
I don’t know the status of the evacuation at the exact moment of the shooting, but it’s my understanding that the mob could well have gotten their hands on members of Congress if it had gotten through that door. Lawmakers Were Feet and Seconds Away From Confrontation With the Mob in the Capitol, according to a Wall Street Journal headline. And now that the mob has the name of an officer, he and his family will need to be moved to a very safe, undisclosed location. So far, none of the published articles naming his name have given his address or the names of family members, but that’s only a matter of time. Somewhere, no doubt, he is already doxxed.
It’s my understanding that the shot that killed Ashli Babbitt was the only gunshot fired in the Capitol that day. There was, of course, bear spray and tasers and many blunt objects in the hands of the mob. I’ve waded into some rightie sites today, and according to rightie lore, all of the rioters who died that day were killed by Capitol security. Beside Babbit, these are:
Kevin D. Greeson, 55, of Athens, Alabama. According to news reports, Greeson was standing with a group of Trump loyalists on the west side of the Capitol when he suffered a heart attack and fell to the sidewalk. He was talking on the phone with his wife at the time. According to righties, he had a heart attack because he was shot in the chest with rubber bullets.
Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia. Ms. Boyland was trampled by her fellow rioters, although the official cause of death was “acute amphetamine intoxication.” Even so, the New York Times “Day of Rage” video shows rioters trampling over her. According to rightie lore, the crowd ran because it was being fired on. No, it wasn’t. The crowd was not in retreat but in advance. No shots are heard. No one in that part of the crowd was shot.
The point is that a characteristic of Trump supporters is blind tribal loyalty and an inability to take personal responsibility for anythng.
Speaking of deaths, on July 6 Chris Hayes made the point that the House would have been evacuated sooner except that Rep. Paul Gosar was taking his time objecting to the ballots of his own state. If the House chamber had evacuated sooner, Ashli Babbitt might still be alive. Chris Hayes stopped short of accusing Gosar of coordinating with the mob. Hmm.
And let us not forget that abut 140 officers were injured in the defense of the Capitol. Many injuries were serious — broken ribs, smashed vertebrae, head injuries. Officer Brian Sicknick died the next day, perhaps from unrelated causes, and two other officers committed suicide in the days after the riot.
But we must remember that the mob is still out there, and still dangerous, and they think they have righteousness on their side.
See also: Philip Bump, The death of Ashli Babbitt offers the purest distillation of Donald Trump’s view of justice.