By Natalie O’Neill
The police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the US Capitol riot is a 28-year law enforcement veteran — who allegedly once left a loaded gun in a restroom of the building, according to a report ahead of his much-anticipated interview Thursday.
Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, 53, stepped forward to identify himself as the officer who gunned down the 36-year-old Air Force vet in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt Thursday evening.
“Lt. Byrd was forced to come forward because he was already identified by multiple unscrupulous outlets and has received hundreds of death threats,” Byrd’s attorney Mark Schamel said in a statement provided to the Post.
“He has had to live in hiding because the FBI threat assessment was so serious.”
Byrd, who joined the force in 1993, also made headlines in 2019 for leaving his loaded gun in a Capitol restroom, according to the Daily Mail.
The cop — who was exonerated last week after an internal probe — had been seen in plain clothes with his gun drawn as rioters stormed the building on Jan. 6, according to the outlet.
Byrd’s name was reportedly known to federal investigators and the US Capitol Police, but officials have refused to disclose it, citing concerns about his safety. But his identity had not been confirmed publicly until Thursday.
Babbitt’s family attorney, Terrell Roberts, called his decision to reveal his identity an unexpected turn of events.
“Quite a turn-around, given the months of constantly saying that to identify him would expose him to danger. Where did that one go?” Roberts told the Daily Mail.
“The US Congress wants to protect this man. He’s got friends in high places, and they want to protect him.”
But Byrd’s attorney shot back at that assessment, calling his client a hero who is owed a debt of gratitude for doing his duty on Jan. 6.
“Those who say he has received special treatment should know better than to perpetuate those lies and seek to avoid the fact that Lt. Byrd’s conduct was legal, justified, appropriate and necessary,” Schamel said.
The attorney said Byrd had a decorated career and had to “use force to save lives.
“He came forward reluctantly to respond to the lies and misinformation that has been spread by those with a political agenda and those who seek to profit from this event,” Shcamel said.
“It is shameful that anyone would seek to profit from the crimes they committed on January 6th but we know that is exactly what the rioters family seeks to do.”
Earlier this week, NBC said the cop would reveal his identity “for the first time” during the interview and “share his perspective on the events of that day, including the aftermath of the deadly insurrection and the threats he has received.”
Byrd shot Babbitt to death as she tried to climb through a busted-out window into the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lobby as part of a wild mob disrupting the certification of President Biden’s victory.
Internal investigations of the officer’s decision to shoot Babbitt concluded that he should not face criminal charges.
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One find as much racism as one is looking for.
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