EXCLUSIVE: After Shooting Ashli Babbitt, Capitol Police Lt. Made False Radio Report: Lawsuit

Previously undisclosed radio dispatch, obtained exclusively by The Epoch Times, reveals Lt. Byrd’s actions after fatally striking Ms. Babbitt.

By Joseph M. Hanneman

January 05, 2024

Within a minute after firing the fatal bullet that struck Ashli Babbitt on Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd broadcast a radio report claiming shots were being fired at him in the Speaker’s Lobby and he was “prepared to fire back,” a federal lawsuit alleges.

The previously undisclosed radio dispatch is also contained on an audio recording obtained exclusively by The Epoch Times of the “OPS2” dispatch channel used by Capitol Police on Jan. 6.

Information on the recording is contained in a federal lawsuit filed on Jan. 5 by Ms. Babbitt’s widower, Aaron Babbitt of San Diego. Mr. Babbitt, backed in his lawsuit by Judicial Watch, is seeking $30 million from the U. S. government for wrongful death.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Byrd fired his Glock 22 .40-caliber pistol, striking Ms. Babbitt in the left shoulder, then announced that he was being fired upon and was ready to return fire.

“In fact, no shots were fired at Lt. Byrd or his fellow officers,” the lawsuit stated. “The only shot fired was the single shot Lt. Byrd fired at Ashli. He heard the loud noise of the gunshot. He saw her fall backward from the window frame.”

Aaron Babbitt, Ashli Babbitt’s husband, in San Diego, Calif., June, 2022. (Zhen Wang/The Epoch Times)

The Epoch Times reached out to Capitol Police and Mr. Byrd’s attorney for comment on the lawsuit and its allegations. Mr. Byrd is now a captain with U.S. Capitol Police.

A few minutes prior to the shooting, a police dispatcher mistakenly reported, “They’re taking shots into the House floor.”

“Lt. Byrd erroneously believed and acted on a false radio call and/or false report of shots fired on the House floor occurring before he left the House floor and moved across the Speaker’s Lobby to the adjacent Retiring Room,” the suit said.

“A reasonably prudent officer in Lt. Byrd’s position would have been aware that, in fact, the report was false and the sound heard on the House floor was glass breaking, not shots fired,” the lawsuit alleged.

It is not clear why Mr. Byrd made the statement that he was taking fire and was prepared to fire back. His radio dispatch occurred up to a minute after he fired on Ms. Babbitt, the suit said.

“The facts speak truth. Ashli was ambushed when she was shot by Lt. Byrd,” the lawsuit said. “Multiple witnesses at the scene yelled, ‘You just murdered her.’”

“Lt. Byrd was never charged or otherwise punished or disciplined for Ashli’s homicide,” the suit stated.

Video shot from the hallway outside the Speaker’s Lobby shows Mr. Byrd emerging in a shooting stance with both hands holding the Glock.

In his only public statements about the shooting—made not to investigators but to an NBC television anchor—Mr. Byrd never mentioned his radio dispatch or his claim that shots were being fired at him and other officers. Nor did he use that as justification for firing his weapon and killing Ms. Babbitt.

An unknown U.S. Capitol Police officer first reported shots fired in the U.S. House just before 2:43 p.m., followed later by Mr. Byrd’s shots-fired announcement, according to the audio recording obtained by The Epoch Times. Both reports turned out to be unfounded.

Officer: “Shots fired, House floor. Shots fired, House floor. Immediate assistance.”

Dispatch: “Shots fired, House floor. Shots fired, House floor.”

2nd Dispatcher: “I need units to re…,” which was cut off mid-sentence. That message ceased on the OPS2 channel but was heard in full on the OPS1 channel:

“I need units to respond to the chamber, the House chamber floor,” the dispatcher said. “Again, units need to respond to the House floor in reference to shots fired. They were shots fired at the House floor. Again, units to respond. They’re taking shots into the House floor. We need units to respond to that location. 1443 hours.”

Lt. Byrd: “405-B. We got shots fired in the lobby. We got fot (sic), shots fired in the lobby of the House chamber. Shots are being fired at us, and we’re prepared to fire back at them. We have guns drawn. [Unintelligible] Don’t leave that end! Don’t leave that end!”

(Left) The exact moment Lt. Michael Byrd fires on unarmed Ashli Babbitt, killing her. Byrd was cleared despite never talking to investigators about the shooting. (Jayden X/YouTube) (Right) Ashli Babbitt (upper right) begins to fall back after being shot by Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, in footage captured by Sam Montoya in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021. (Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Mr. Byrd’s dispatch was followed by 11 seconds of radio silence.

The transcript of the OPS2 radio communications provided by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as evidence in Jan. 6 criminal cases does not include the words “we’re prepared to fire back at them.” The DOJ transcript instead says, “and it went, so we locked it down.”

Dispatcher: “Simulcasting, shots fired on the House floor again.”

Lt. Byrd: “We’ve got an injured person. I believe that person was shot. It was…” (cut off by another transmission).

Unknown officer: “…Shot, one down, civilian. We need EMTs. We need… Come through on the west side of the building … to the House lobby.”

Dispatch: “That’d be House…”

Lt. Byrd: “405-B, did you copy?”

Dispatch: “I copied. House lobby, west side. Individual…”

Mr. Byrd retreated from the entrance to the seated area in the Speaker’s Lobby. Officer Mike Brown, a member of the USCP Containment and Emergency Response Team (CERT), said Mr. Byrd was “down and out and almost in tears.”

The revelation of Mr. Byrd’s previously undisclosed radio statements raises fresh questions about the shooting of Ms. Babbitt, 35, and the investigation that cleared him of potential charges of excessive use of force.

Ashli Babbitt’s route inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Illustration by The Epoch Times, Public Domain)

The DOJ report explaining why no charges were pursued did not mention Mr. Byrd’s radio dispatch.

Mr. Byrd never made a statement to internal affairs officers who investigated the shooting on behalf of U.S. Capitol Police. When he met with DC Metro internal affairs the night of Jan. 6, 2021, he said he wanted to retain an attorney before saying anything.

Mr. Byrd and his attorney did an informal walk-through of the shooting scene with a Capitol Police official in late January 2021 but he was never subjected to questioning.

DOJ Report Contained Errors

The DOJ report absolving Mr. Byrd from culpability included numerous errors and incorrect statements.

The report says that after the glass in the doors leading to the Speaker’s Lobby was smashed out, rioters “were then able to reach through the broken glass and push the chairs off the top of the barricaded furniture.”

Video shot from the hallway does not show anyone toppling chairs from the makeshift barricade, either before or after Ms. Babbitt was shot.

The report quotes Jason Gandolph of the House Sergeant at Arms office saying he and several Capitol Police officers “attempted to keep the demonstrators from advancing toward the Speaker’s Lobby after the Capitol was breached.”

Ashli Babbitt engages in light banter with Capitol Police officers outside of the Speaker’s Lobby in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Tayler Hansen)

According to a cell phone video from Tayler Hansen, the first protester to enter the hallway outside the Speaker’s Lobby, he said hello to Mr. Gandolph on his way in and told him, “Stay safe, all right?”

When Mr. Hansen and Ms. Babbitt approached the doors to the Speaker’s Lobby, they engaged in friendly chatter with the three officers guarding the doors: Sgt. Timothy Lively, Officer Kyle Yetter, and Officer Christopher Lanciano.

Noting that two of the officers had been sprayed with a fire extinguisher earlier in the day and were coated with white powder, Mr. Hansen asked Officer Yetter, “You need a water or something, man?”

Mr. Gandolph told investigators that he observed Ms. Babbitt “participate in breaking the glass to the doors.”

Video shows Ms. Babbitt did not strike the glass or commit any vandalism during her time in the hallway. She confronted agitator Zachary Alam for smashing the glass and eventually punched him in the nose when he broke out a side window, video evidence shows.

Ashli Babbitt punches rioter Zachary Alam in the face just before she climbed in a broken window leading to the Speaker’s Lobby at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Sam Montoya)

Despite clear video from the hallway, the DOJ described Ms. Babbitt as “an active participant in a ‘mob’ that had just illegally entered the Capitol building.”

The Epoch Times asked the DOJ for comment on its use-of-force report but did not get a reply by press time.

First-aid efforts by Mr. Gandolph and a member of the USCP SWAT team were described in the DOJ report. The document fails to mention that Dr. Austin Harris, a California cardiothoracic anesthesiologist who was in the crowd, knelt down with his medical bag, checked for a pulse, and began assessing Ms. Babbitt’s wounds.

After four minutes of rendering aid to Ms. Babbitt, Dr. Harris was grabbed by a USCP bicycle officer, pulled from his kneeling position, and wrestled away from his dying patient. The officer shoved Dr. Harris down the hall and forced him to leave the area.

A U.S. Capitol Police officer (C) shoves Dr. Austin Harris (lower right) down the hallway outside the Speaker’s Lobby at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Jayden X/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

A short time earlier, Young Kim—a videographer with medic training who was assisting Dr. Harris—was forced by police to stop his rescue efforts and abandon the scene.

On Jan. 25, 2023, Dr. Harris was arrested by the FBI and charged with four misdemeanors for being in the Capitol on Jan. 6. Mr. Kim was briefly on the FBI’s Jan. 6 most-wanted list but was later removed without explanation in April 2021.

Unusual Facts in the Case

The Babbitt shooting had a number of other unusual aspects. Mr. Byrd’s name was withheld from the media and the public for nearly nine months. His name was still secret four months after the DOJ decided not to pursue charges against Mr. Byrd. His name only became public when he sat down for an interview with NBC News anchor Lester Holt.

On July 8—weeks before the interview aired on NBC—Mr. Byrd moved into a military hotel at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Although he started in a standard guest room, Mr. Byrd upgraded into a room typically reserved for military brass at the rank of brigadier general or higher, according to Judicial Watch, which sued the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense for details on Mr. Byrd’s stay.

U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd was in command of police in the U.S. House chamber on Jan. 6, 2021. (Judicial Watch)

Capitol Police paid the hotel bill with a credit card approximately every two weeks. Mr. Byrd checked out of the hotel on Jan. 28, 2022. The total tab for Mr. Byrd and his pet to stay at Joint Base Andrews was nearly $37,000, according to records obtained by Judicial Watch.

In his interview with Mr. Holt, Mr. Byrd said his name had been kept from the public as a safety precaution.

“I believe it was because of the threats, the vile threats, the conversation and chatter that’s been expressed about me and my actions,” Mr. Byrd said. “They talked about, you know, killing me, cutting off my head, you know, very vicious and cruel things.

“There were some racist attacks as well,” Mr. Byrd said. “Of course, it’s all disheartening because I know I was doing my job.”

The Epoch Times original documentary “The Real Story of January 6 Part 2: The Long Road Home” will be available to full subscribers starting Saturday, Jan. 6, at 8:30 p.m. ET on EpochTV.

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