A retired FBI supervisory special agent told the Star News Network that the Capitol Hill police officer, who shot unarmed Ashli E. Babbitt at close range Jan. 6, was not justified to use deadly force.
“Yes, it was chaotic, but that is why you wear a badge,” said Robyn Gritz, who was part of the FBI team that responded to the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. “That’s why you carry a gun – you’re supposed to know that you can handle a crisis.”
A Capitol Hill Police plainclothesman shot the 14-year Air Force veteran and California businesswoman as she was attempting to climb through a broken window pane on one of the double doors leading the Speaker’s Lobby and Member’s Retiring Room – just a few feet from the House floor.
Babbitt was part of a crowd of perhaps 5,000 or more protesters, who stormed the Capitol doors and created chaos and mayhem there. Most of the protesters had breached Capitol security long before President Donald J. Trump was done speaking the the Elipse between the White House’s South Lawn and the Washington Monument at his rally against certifying the Electoral College results for the 2020 presidential election.
“It was very upsetting to watch that video—I was going: ‘What the hell? Why did he shoot?’” the former liaison agent between the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency said. John E. Sullivan, the leftist videographer who shot one of the videos of the shooting, was arrested Thursday by the FBI in Utah.
The officer must be held responsible, she said. “You own every bullet when you take a shot.
The retired senior federal law enforcement agent said from the videos posted online, she recognized at once Babbitt was hit, she did not have a chance to survive. “I knew she had to be dead in 15 seconds. She bled out very fast from that wound.”
Gritz became a national figure after she came public with her lawsuit against the FBI for the gender discrimination that she claims ended her career. After 18 years of promotions and expanding professional responsiblity, she filed a compliant citing a gender-based double-standard held aginst her by senior FBI leaders, including the bureau’s former deputy director Andrew McCabe. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, then the commanding general of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote a letter supporting Gritz’s claims, a move that may have led to McCabe’s animus towards Flynn.
Babbitt’s actions did not endanger anyone’s life
The House floor is set up as a horseshoe with the Speaker’s rostrum and well centered at the open end of the horseshoe. The Speaker’s Lobby is a long rectangular room that stretches to connect both ends of the horseshoe. The lobby functions as place for congressmen to relax by the fireplace or step out onto the balconies. It is also where congressmen and press secretaries gaggle with reporters and conference with staffers.
When the officer shot Babbitt center mass in the chest, Members of Congress had been told to seek shelter as the crowd of protesters surged through the hallways and offices of the Capitol building. Yet, there were still congressmen on the floor, as well as other officers.
Gritz said Babbitt was acting inappropriately, but she was not endangering the life of the officer and she was about to make herself extremely vulnerable as she climbed through a broken window and then had to grapple over the tables and chairs barricaded up against the doors.
“Was anyone’s life in danger at that point?” she asked. “I don’t feel it was a justified shooting—just through the window. No one’s life was in danger. There’s a bunch of furniture in front of the door and window.”
The former FBI agent, who is now corporate security expert in private life and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Gold Institute for International Strategies, said, “It was just one person. She was obviously going to fall over the furniture that was blocking the door—and the officers should have had their cuffs out. They could have pepper sprayed her, there was no reason to use force.”
There were other officers in the lobby besides the shooting officer and they should have worked as a team to confront and apprehend Babbitt,” she said.
“I would have been yelling at her that I was going to arrest her—one person would have had a gun on her,” she said.
Gritz said all law enforcement officers are trained to evaluate a situation before using deadly force, because they are trained to only use deadly force whenever they pull the trigger. “People always ask me about warning shots. We don’t do warning shots.”
Potential blue-on-blue incident
Gritz said another reason why the shot was a tragic mistake is that at the same time Babbitt and her group were trying to enter the lobby, a element of Capitol Hill police officers in black tactical gear and long rifles were coming up the stairs directly behind Babbitt.
Those officers coming up the stairs could have been shot, she said.
“They were yelling because the officer who shot Babbitt could have easily shot one of them. Very easily. They were yelling: ‘Stand down! Stand down!’” she said.
“You almost had a blue-on-blue situation,” she said.
“He took the shot with Capitol Police out there,” she said. “What about the radio comms? The shooter darn well those guys were coming up the stairs—it would be very interesting to get the radio transmission of what was going on.”
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Neil W. McCabe is a Washington-based national political reporter for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. In addition to the Star Newspaper, he has covered the White House, Capitol Hill and national politics for One America News, Breitbart, Human Events and Townhall. Before coming to Washington, he was a staff reporter for Boston’s Catholic paper, The Pilot, and the editor of two Boston-area community papers, The Somerville News and The Alewife. McCabe is a public affairs NCO in the Army Reserve and he deployed for 15 months to Iraq as a combat historian.
Photo “Capitol Shooting” by Jayden X.