Plainclothes Capitol Police officers draw their guns at rioters who'd broken the glass of the main door of the House chamber during an attack by a far-right mob seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd who shot and killed a woman who was part of the mob in the Capitol said he "saved countless lives" during the Jan. 6 attack.
Speaking publically for the first time during an appearance on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt Thursday night about the riot in which he shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, Byrd revealed his identity after authorities declined to make it public.
Byrd, a Black man, has been in hiding for months after receiving death threats and racist attacks after Babbitt, a 35-year-old former U.S. Air Force enlistee and fervent supporter of former President Donald Trump, has come to be viewed as a martyr by Trump and his supporters.
"I know that day I saved countless lives," said Byrd, who was cleared this week of any wrongdoing in Babbitt's death. "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."
Earlier this week, U.S. Capitol Police announced that it had completed an investigation into the shooting and found that the officer had acted appropriately and will not face discipline. The Justice Department has already said it won't pursue charges against the officer.
Babbitt was shot inside the Capitol as rioters attempted to break through a window outside the Speaker's Lobby, which leads to the House chamber. She was wounded in the shoulder and later died at a hospital.
Byrd said he pulled the trigger as a "last resort," adding it was the first time he'd fired his weapon in 28 years on the force.
"I tried to wait as long as I could," he said. "I hoped and prayed no one tried to enter through those doors. But their failure to comply required me to take the appropriate action to save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers."
The officer added he only learned later on the night of the riot that he had shot a woman who was unarmed.
"I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are," said Byrd. "But they had shown violence leading up to that point."
The Babbitt family is planning a wrongful death lawsuit against the officer and U.S. Capitol Police, and are crowdfunding the lawsuit, having so far raised more than $76,000 of a $500,000 goal.
U.S. Capitol Police officials had said previously that identifying Byrd endanger his life.
In a report on Thursday, Newsweek named the officer and showed photographs of him inside the lobby with a gun while trying to keep rioters out.
Newsweek said the officer's identity was provided by Maryland attorney Terry Roberts, who represents Babbitt's family.
"The U.S. Congress wants to protect this man. He's got friends in high places and they want to protect him," Roberts told Newsweek. "I don't think it's a proud moment for the U.S. Capitol Police or the U.S. Congress."
His identity had previously been released through right-wing media and online forums leading him to receive threats.
"They talked about killing me, cutting off my head," Byrd said, adding he was also attacked for his race. "It's all disheartening, because I know I was doing my job."
Byrd added he acknowledges that some people disagree with his actions during the riot.
"I hope they understand I did my job," he said. "There was imminent threat and danger to the members of Congress. I just want the truth to be told."
Capitol Hill police salute the passing of the funeral hearse on Sunday for slain Officer Brian Sicknick, who died in the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo