Capitol Police officer who shot woman in Capitol placed on leave
The U.S. Capitol Police said Thursday that an employee responsible for fatally shooting a rioter outside the House chamber has been placed on administrative leave and is under investigation.
A 35-year-old California woman and Air Force veteran, Ashli Babbitt, was among the mob that gathered in support of President Trump and broke into the Capitol on Wednesday to stop Congress from formally certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said in a statement that Babbitt was part of the group forcing its way toward the House chamber where lawmakers had not yet been evacuated.
Sund said that medical assistance was given to Babbitt “immediately” and she was transported to the hospital after being shot by the Capitol Police employee, who was not identified. But Babbitt ultimately died of her injuries later Wednesday.
“As protesters were forcing their way toward the House Chamber where Members of Congress were sheltering in place, a sworn USCP employee discharged their service weapon, striking an adult female,” Sund said.
“As per the USCP’s policy, the USCP employee has been placed on administrative leave and their police powers have been suspended pending the outcome of a joint Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and USCP investigation.”
Video circulating on social media of the encounter shows a group of rioters trying to force their way into the Speaker’s Lobby, which is a hallway behind the House chamber where lawmakers, staff and reporters typically gather during votes. Access has been restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rioters broke the glass panels on the outside of the Speaker’s Lobby. A person in the video starts to climb through one of the broken windows, but after a gunshot fires the person falls back onto the ground.
Three other people died after apparently suffering “separate medical emergencies” near the Capitol grounds on Wednesday, according to authorities.
Lawmakers have called for an investigation into why the Capitol Police failed to hold back the violent rioters, who unleashed terror and chaos on the nation’s legislature for several hours before law enforcement was able to secure the building.
The rioters also broke into the Senate chamber, where they sat in the presiding officer’s chair, dangled from the top of the dais and roamed about the visitor’s galleries. They also vandalized Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office just off the Capitol Rotunda, left trash throughout the Capitol and broke windows and glass in numerous other doors in the Capitol complex.
The Capitol Police signaled earlier this week that it planned to have extra personnel on duty in anticipation of the protests in support of Trump. But the Capitol Police were nevertheless overpowered by the violent rioters and later received reinforcements from the Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland National Guard as well as state troopers.
Sund defended the Capitol Police’s actions in the Thursday statement, calling the officers’ actions “heroic” and maintaining his force had a “robust plan” in place.
“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. Maintaining public safety in an open environment — specifically for First Amendment activities — has long been a challenge. The USCP had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities,” Sund said.
Sund said that the Capitol Police is “conducting a thorough review of this incident, security planning and policies and procedures.”