Federal prosecutors have decided not to bring charges against the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot 35-year-old Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 storming of Capitol Hill.
Justice Department (DOJ) prosecutors, who were in charge of the investigation, said they made the decision after months of scrutiny of video evidence, testimony from officers, and autopsy results.
“Based on that investigation, officials determined that there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution,” the DOJ, led by newly-minted Attorney General Merrick Garland, said in a statement.
“Officials examined video footage posted on social media, statements from the officer involved and other officers and witnesses to the events, physical evidence from the scene of the shooting, and the results of an autopsy,” the department said.
Clips posted on social media showed Babbitt, wearing a stars-and-stripes backpack, trying to squeeze through a door opening in an area inside the Capitol known as Speaker’s Lobby, when the officer, who has not been identified, fired a single shot, striking Babbitt in the shoulder.
“As members of the mob continued to strike the glass doors, Ms. Babbitt attempted to climb through one of the doors where glass was broken out. An officer inside the Speaker’s Lobby fired one round from his service pistol, striking Ms. Babbitt in the left shoulder, causing her to fall back from the doorway and onto the floor. A USCP emergency response team, which had begun making its way into the hallway to try and subdue the mob, administered aid to Ms. Babbitt, who was transported to Washington Hospital Center, where she succumbed to her injuries,” the DOJ said in the statement.
Prosecutors sought whether they could prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the deadly force the officer used “was constitutionally unreasonable,” that is, whether the officer “acted willfully to deprive Ms. Babbitt of a right protected by the Constitution or other law, here the Fourth Amendment right not to be subjected to an unreasonable seizure.
“Prosecutors would have to prove not only that the officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that the officer did so “willfully,” which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean that the officer acted with a bad purpose to disregard the law,” the DOJ said.
They concluded: “The investigation revealed no evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer willfully committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242. Specifically, the investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber. Acknowledging the tragic loss of life and offering condolences to Ms. Babbitt’s family, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Department of Justice have therefore closed the investigation into this matter.”
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Author: Damjan Tutarkov
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