The U.S. federal government has been hit with a lawsuit over the “wrong death” of Jan. 6 protester Ashli Babbitt.
Babbitt, a supporter of President Donald Trump, was the only person killed during the protests at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Political watchdog group Judicial Watch has now filed a wrongful death suit for $30 million against the federal government for the shooting of Babbitt at the Capitol.
The conservative public interest firm filed the lawsuit in federal district court in southern California on behalf of Babbitt’s husband, Aaron Babbitt, and her estate.
A news release from Judicial Watch recounts:
“Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt was a 35-year-old resident of San Diego, California, where she owned and operated a successful pool business with her husband Aaron.
“Ashli traveled alone from San Diego to Washington, DC, to attend the Women for America First (aka Save America) rally on January 6, 2021, at the Ellipse.”
After the rally during which Trump spoke, Babbitt walked to and entered the Capitol on the Senate side “long after others had done so,” according to Judicial Watch.
Ultimately, Babbitt ended up in the lobby outside the House side.
“After demonstrators filled the hallway outside the lobby, two individuals in the crowded, tightly packed hallway struck and dislodged the glass panels in the lobby doors and the right door sidelight,” the complaint said.
Lt. Michael Byrd, who is a United States Capitol Police officer and was the incident commander for the House on Jan. 6, 2021, “shot Ashli on sight as she raised herself up into the opening of the right door sidelight.
“Lt. Byrd later confessed that he shot Ashli before seeing her hands or assessing her intentions or even identifying her as female. Ashli was unarmed,” the complaint said.
“Her hands were up in the air, empty, and in plain view of Lt. Byrd and other officers in the lobby.
“Ashli posed no threat to the safety of anyone.
“Not one member of Congress was in the lobby, which was guarded by multiple armed police officers.”
The court filing continued, “Lt. Byrd, who was not in uniform, did not identify himself as a police officer or otherwise make his presence known to Ashli.
“Lt. Byrd did not give Ashli any warnings or commands before shooting her dead.”
The moment of the shooting can be seen in this 2021 NBC News story at the 2:30-minute mark.
In an exclusive interview with @LesterHoltNBC, Capitol Police Lieutenant Michael Byrd describes why he’s choosing to identify himself. Byrd shares his account of the January 6 riot, as officers barricaded the door and he fired a single shot, killing Ashli Babbitt. pic.twitter.com/5E7KPtxNc2
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) August 26, 2021
Byrd told NBC he had given commands to Babbitt, and she did not comply.
The suit further alleges that at 2:45 p.m., or within one minute after shooting Ashli, Lt. Byrd called in, “We got shots fired in the lobby.
“We got shots fired in the lobby of the House chamber.
“Shots are being fired at us and we’re sh, uhh, prepared to fire back at them. We have guns drawn.”
The only shot fired on January 6 was by Byrd.
“In fact, no shots were fired at Lt. Byrd or his fellow officers,” the suit notes.
“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.”
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) January 5, 2024
The suit, filed on the eve of the third anniversary of the riots, also claims assault and battery along with myriad negligence issues.
Babbitt was shot and killed by Byrd in what Judicial Watch called an ambush.
Further, the lawsuit claims that Capitol Hill Police “knew or should have known that Lt. Byrd was prone to behave in a dangerous or otherwise incompetent manner.”
The suit was also filed on behalf of Babbitt’s widower, Aaron Babbitt.
“The only homicide on January 6 was the unlawful shooting death of Ashli Babbitt,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said on his website.
“Her homicide by Lt. Byrd is a scandal beyond belief.
“This historic lawsuit seeks a measure of justice and government accountability for Ashli’s wrongful death.
“Judicial Watch and our supporters are honored to represent Ashli’s steadfast widower Aaron Babbitt and her estate in this legal action.
“Ashli was shot in cold blood and the rule of law requires justice for her.”
Byrd was not charged in the shooting.
The lawsuit also claims that Babbitt suffered in the minutes after the shooting as her lungs filled up with blood.
“Ashli remained conscious for minutes or longer after being shot by Lt. Byrd.
“Ashli experienced extreme pain, suffering, mental anguish, and intense fear before slipping into pre-terminal unconsciousness.”
Byrd defended the shooting months after it happened, saying in an interview that he “saved countless lives.”
“I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger,” he told NBC News in August 2021.
“And that’s my job.”
Byrd was promoted to captain of the Capitol Hill Police in August.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of California.