Such cases require federal prosecutors to establish that an officer not only used excessive force but willfully violated someone’s constitutional rights, making it difficult to bring federal charges against an officer. “It is irresponsible to make an investigatory assumption or to jump to any conclusion without completing the thorough investigation,” a spokesperson for Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department told CNN.
Babbitt had entered the Capitol building as part of the crowd that violently attempted a coup and threatened the police officials standing guard. Investigation footage from a separate case, that of rioter Zachary Jodan Alam, found that Babbitt was shot after Alam smashed a window and urged officers to move aside. According to video footage, moments before being shot, Babbitt tried to jump through the shattered glass.
The 35-year-old veteran of the Air Force and Air National Guard was an avid Trump supporter. According to multiple reporters, the day before the Capitol riots she tweeted: “Nothing will stop us … they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours … dark to light!” She was one of five individuals who died during the riot, including 42-year-old Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. As of this report, no one has been arrested or charged in connection with Sicknick’s death.
According to colleagues and other officers, the officer in question was potentially the last line of defense between rioters and members of Congress. If this is proven true, it justifies his use of force because it is a part of his job. “That’s where he drew the line in the sand,” a fellow Capitol Police officer said. This officer told The Wall Street Journal that while currently suspended, the officer in question is expected to return to work soon; however, he is afraid of being retaliated against by Trump supporters.
While it is unclear who exactly was being guarded in the room the officer was stationed in front of, it is clear it was a highly valuable member of the government, which prompted the official’s use of force. “Without question he should be cleared,” said Mark Schamel, one of the lawyers representing the officer. “There’s no way to look at the evidence and think he’s anything but a hero.”
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who witnessed the shooting, told The Wall Street Journal that he saw the police officer acting in defense in front of the House lobby doors. Mullin added that members including himself were alarmed because lawmakers were still inside the chamber overlooking the floor. “I believe they were wanting to hurt us,” he said, referring to the rioters. “My thought was, ‘How are we going to handle this one?’”
He then recalled hearing the shot and added: “I’ll tell you, from my perspective, the lieutenant that did that, I truly feel that he saved some people’s lives that day.” Mullin noted that the officer approached him afterward feeling distraught. Mullin hugged the officer and assured him that he “did what you had to do.”
Officers on duty during the insurrection were not just recorded defending members of Congress, but even coming to the aid of Babbitt, who was taken to the hospital before being pronounced dead. Recommendations to not charge the officer who shot her are expected to cause conflict as conservatives have already attempted to use her death as a way to not only hijack the Say Her Name movement but to call for others to support their cause. With the rising number of protests against police brutality, many alt-right individuals are using this incident to claim that Black individuals are not the only ones wrongly impacted by the justice system.