The family of the California woman shot to death during the Capitol riot plans to file a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit against the Capitol Police Department, CBS Washington, D.C. affiliate WUSA-TV reports.
The family says she was murdered.
Thirty-five-year-old Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt was hit by the only shot fired during the riot.
Babbitt had traveled to D.C. from California because of her fervent belief in the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump.
Video shows her trying to climb through a broken window into the Speaker’s Lobby outside the House Chamber when a Capitol Police officer guarding the entrance fired.
An investigation by the Justice Department found insufficient evidence to bring any charges against the officer, who’s never been named publicly.
But Babbitt’s family feels she was murdered.
“In the eyes of her family? Of course she was,” attorney Terry Roberts told WUSA. “I mean, there was just no legal justification to take her life.”
Roberts, a Prince George’s County-based attorney who specializes in police misconduct and civil rights litigation said to him, the shooting is an “obvious case of excessive force.”
“She could have easily been stopped by the officer who shot her or numerous other officers who were around and been arrested, if that’s what they wanted to do. There was no need to shoot her,” Roberts said.
“Any rookie police officer with a set of handcuffs could have taken her into custody. She’s an Air Force veteran. She was actually a military police officer herself. I am sure that she would have complied.”
The shooting was captured on video from multiple angles, including by Capitol riot defendant John Sullivan, who streams under the name “JaydenX.” Sullivan’s video, provided to WUSA, shows Babbitt was part of a mob of dozens of rioters using improvised weapons to break the glass on doors and windows leading into the Speaker’s Lobby. A small number of Capitol Police officers can be seen barricaded behind the door.
Roberts said he hasn’t heard any evidence that the officer who shot Babbitt yelled orders for her to stop, and also said it’s not clear to him that Babbitt ever even saw the officer.
“On her side of the door, it’s quite tumultuous, you know — a lot of noise and everything,” Roberts said. “I don’t believe Ashli Babbitt saw him at all. I mean, I think that if she has seen an officer with a gun facing her, that would be a totally different thing.”
Roberts said in his view, and in the Babbitt family’s view, Babbitt was a protester attempting to exercise her right for a redress of grievances from her government. He compared her to other protesters who came out across the country in 2020 following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer.
“You know, we don’t shoot protesters in this country unless they’re an immediate threat to somebody,” Roberts said. “And so I don’t see the difference between Ashli Babbitt’s case and any other protests which occurred in 2020.”
Babbitt’s own social media posts prior to January 6 complicate that portrayal of her, however.
According to her family, she was a “fanatical” supporter of Mr. Trump, and her online profile is filled with references to the QAnon and “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories and accusations that then-President-elect Biden was part of a child sex cabal – a common theme of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
On January 1, Babbitt tweeted that she would be in D.C. on January 6, along with “WWG1WGA,” representing the QAnon phrase “where we go one, we go all.”
The day before the Babbitt 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.” The “storm” is also a central part of the QAnon conspiracy theory – representing the day that Mr. Trump would initiate the mass arrest of Democrats.
Twitter has since removed Babbitt’s former @Ashli_Babbitt account, but her posts can be seen in screen grabs saved prior to its removal and on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
The Wayback Machine’s archive of her account shows in the days leading up to the January 6 joint session of Congress, Babbitt had retweeted Trump attorney Lin Wood dozens of times, including tweets alleging that Chief Justice John Roberts was being blackmailed in a global scheme involving the “rape and murder of children.”
The archive shows that hours before the riot, Babbitt retweeted another Wood post calling for Vice President Mike Pence to resign and be charged with treason.
Roberts didn’t provide a timeframe for when the Babbitt family might file the suit but said they were committed to holding the police accountable.
“The only way we can do it is through a civil lawsuit for damages,” Roberts said. “I mean, you take someone’s life who’s married, has a family, that kind of thing, there are significant damages.”
The U.S. Capitol Police said Tuesday the department can’t comment on pending litigation. A spokesperson said the officer who shot Babbitt remains on paid administrative leave while an internal investigation continues, which is standard procedure for shootings involving an officer.
Babbitt is survived by her parents and her husband, Aaron, with whom she ran a pool cleaning business.
The family has created a Twitter account @ForAshli to collect any evidence or tips about what happened in the Capitol building on January 6.
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