The Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, a rioter during the Jan. 6 insurrection, defended his decision to fire his weapon as mobs tried to break through a barrier, telling NBC he saved "countless lives" as a result.
In an exclusive interview with NBC Nightly News' Lester Holt that aired Thursday, Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd said he was "very afraid" after seeing the rioters and hearing reports of other officers being overrun. He had been barricading a door and trying to stop rioters from entering the Speaker’s Lobby, he said, adding that shooting Babbitt was a last resort as she tried to crawl through a shattered windowpane.
Byrd said she and the mob posed a threat to lawmakers who had nowhere to escape.
"I was taking a tactical stance," Byrd said. "You're ultimately hoping that your commands will be complied with, and unfortunately they were not."
An internal investigation into the shooting cleared Byrd of any criminal charges after officials said they determined it was within the department's use-of-force guidelines.
"The actions of the officer in this case potentially saved members and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters who forced their way into the U.S. Capitol and to the House Chamber where members and staff were steps away," investigators announced.
“I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd told Holt. “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.”
Babbitt was among a mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.
But Byrd said it didn't matter what Babbitt's motives were and that he did his job to protect the House of Representatives.
"I do my job for Republican, Democrat, for white, for Black, red, blue, green," he said.