Ashli Babbitt, the Trump-supporting Air Force vet shot dead during Wednesday’s Capitol riot, was climbing through a broken window when she was killed by a plain-clothes cop who had “no choice” but to shoot, according to witness accounts, videos, and official statements.
Police on Thursday identified 35-year-year-old Babbitt as an Ocean Beach, California resident and a 14-year Air Force veteran. She has previously posted in support of the violent QAnon conspiracy theory and her husband, Aaron Babbitt, described her to KUSI as an avid Trump supporter. He said he didn’t travel with her to D.C. and was due to pick her up from the airport on Friday.
“Ashli was both loyal as well as extremely passionate about what she believed in,” Babbitt’s brother-in-law Justin Jackson told KNSD-TV. “She loved this country and felt honored to have served in our Armed Forces.”
Her mother-in-law, Robin Babbitt, told the New York Post: “I’m numb. I’m devastated. Nobody from D.C. notified my son and we found out on TV.”
Videos of the incident show a group of Trump supporters breaking through the windows of a set of double doors, and officers barricading it with furniture on the other side.
As the group used flagpoles to break the windows, “all we see is these guns coming out the doorways, just guns,” a witness, John Sullivan, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“I was yelling to people, ‘Guys, there’s guns, you don’t want to go through there, they’re going to shoot... The second that she climbed through the window, she got shot right in the neck area and fell backwards.”
One witness told WUSA9 that Babbitt was trying to “rush” the window. “A number of police and Secret Service were saying ‘Get back, get down, get out of the way,’” he said. “She didn’t heed the call and as we kind of raced up to grab people and pull them back, they shot her in the neck.”
While Sullivan said Babbitt was “not violent” and shouldn’t have died, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), who was inside the chamber at the time, said the police lieutenant “didn’t have a choice” but to shoot once the window was breached.
“The mob was going to come through the door, there was a lot of members and staff that were in danger at the time. And when he [drew] his weapon, that’s a decision that’s very hard for anyone to make and, once you draw your weapon like that, you have to defend yourself with deadly force,” he told Good Morning America on Thursday.
“[H]is actions well may be judged in a lot of different ways moving forward, but his actions I believe saved people’s lives even more. Unfortunately, it did take one though.”
A video posted to Twitter showed a woman wearing a Make America Great Again flag falling to the ground next to the shattered window. Blood covered her neck and mouth.
One officer can be heard telling the crowd, “[Paramedics] will not come if it’s unruly, you guys gotta go.” The person shooting the video said, “This lady just got shot, we gotta make a fucking hole.” Another voice could be heard: “She’s gone, man.” The unruly demonstrators did not appear to move.
D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser confirmed that a plain-clothed Capitol Police officer fired the fatal shot.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said in a Thursday statement that the officer was put on leave while a probe was underway. He confirmed Babbitt was the victim.
“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.,” Sund’s statement said.
According to Babbitt’s social media accounts, she supported the violent pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory. In total, she sent 21 tweets referencing the QAnon slogan, starting in February 2020. She also appeared to embrace conspiracy theories that hospitals are claiming fake coronavirus patients.
On Jan. 1, she tweeted that she would be in Washington for Jan. 6, adding “WWG1WGA,” a reference to the QAnon slogan, “Where we go one, we go all.”
On Jan. 5, a day before her death, she tweeted references to another QAnon slogan, “dark to light,” and said the United States would soon see “The Storm”—a moment much awaited by QAnon followers, in which Trump would execute his opponents in the Democratic Party.
Babbitt, like other QAnon followers, gathered outside Congress on Wednesday, appeared to believe that the apocalyptic moment was at hand.
“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!” Babbitt wrote.
Her Facebook page reflected a number of right-wing interests, though comparatively mainstream ones. Her likes included conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and libertarian icon and former Rep. Ron Paul, as well as pages supportive of gun rights.
At least six people were hospitalized on Wednesday, including one law enforcement officer. Three others died due to medical emergencies during the riot, police said. On Thursday, police identified them as Benjamin Phillips, 50, Kevin Greeson, 55, and Rosanne Boyland, 34.
Sund, the Capitol Police chief, said at least 50 officers from Capitol and D.C. police forces were injured, including several who were hospitalized.
Officers “responded valiantly when faced with thousands of individuals involved in violent riotous actions,” he said in his statement. “These individuals actively attacked [officers] with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and took up other weapons against our officers. They were determined to enter into the Capitol Building by causing great damage.”
D.C. Police said 68 people were arrested—mostly for curfew violations and unlawful entry. Four were arrested for carrying a weapon without a license. One was arrested for riot acts, one for assault on an officer, and one for simple assault. Only one person was from D.C., Contee said.
Congress had been in the process of certifying the results of the election, won by President-elect Joe Biden, when protesters breached the building. Both chambers were evacuated in response to the incursion.
The violent demonstrators falsely believe Trump won the election despite multiple rulings by federal courts and the Supreme Court and state officials from both parties finding no evidence of widespread voting irregularities or fraud.
The commander-in-chief addressed many of the rioters in front of the Capitol just before they breached the building, telling them to “stop the steal.”
With additional reporting by Will Sommer and Rachel Olding