Less than a day after armed robbery suspect Daunte Wright was shot by police, the name of the police officer who pulled the trigger was publicly released. A short time later, her address was leaked. Now her home is surrounded by concrete barricades, metal fencing, and armed police guards, in hopes of preventing the violent mob from burning it to the ground. This is generally how things have played out for all of the high-profile police shootings in recent memory. All except one.
It was announced yesterday by the DOJ that the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, one of the pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol on January 6th, will not be charged in her death. The statement from the DOJ refers to this man only as “the U.S. Capitol Police officer” because his name was never made public. Four months later, and we know absolutely nothing about the federal officer who shot an unarmed woman in the Capitol. It took one day to find out who shot Daunte Wright and where she lives. But more than 120 days after Babbitt’s killing, and we know as much about the shooter as we did the moment after he pulled the trigger.
Whatever you think of the Ashli Babbitt shooting, whether you believe it to be justified or not, you should not be okay with this state of affairs. All Americans of all ideological persuasions should agree, if we deserve to know the names of the officers in every other high-profile incident of this sort, the public deserves to know the officer’s name in the Babbitt case.
Here is what we are being told about the officer, from the DOJ statement published this week:
The focus of the criminal investigation was to determine whether federal prosecutors could prove that the officer violated any federal laws, concentrating on the possible application of 18 U.S.C. § 242, a federal criminal civil rights statute. In order to establish a violation of this statute, prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that 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. As this requirement has been interpreted by the courts, evidence that an officer acted out of fear, mistake, panic, misperception, negligence, or even poor judgment cannot establish the high level of intent required under Section 242.
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.
That’s it. That’s the end of it, as far as they are concerned. Notice that the statement does not actually tell us specifically why the officer shot Babbitt. We are given only a broad category of acceptable reasons for a cop to shoot someone, and assured that his reason probably fell somewhere in the vicinity of that category. This, again, is outrageous. An unarmed woman was shot by a federal officer. They will not tell us who did it or why. And those who have screamed the loudest about “police brutality” seem conspicuously unconcerned with the lack of transparency and uninterested in accountability in this case.
What about those of us who have integrity and who actually care about things like truth and justice? What should we think about this? Well, it’s hard to know what to think, because we are told so little about the case. All we have is the video taken by someone in the crowd. There is, no doubt, all kinds of additional footage available — security cameras, body cameras, etc. — but we have not been allowed to see any of it.
Based on what we can see, we know that Babbitt was unarmed and climbing through a door into a hallway guarded by armed police officers. There were also heavily armed and armored officers coming up the stairs directly behind her. Babbitt was literally surrounded on all sides by cops. One of those officers fired a shot. He was, apparently, the only officer on the scene that day who felt it necessary to take that lethal step.
Was the step justified? If it was, the argument in the unnamed cop’s favor would go something like this: “Ashli Babbitt was trespassing with an unruly mob in a government building. She was given multiple warnings to leave the area. The warnings may or may not have been verbal, but the hallway was locked and barricaded and there were police officers guarding it with guns. She knew she was not supposed to keep going, but she did. The officer didn’t know what her intentions were, and made the best decision he could in that high pressure situation.”
I have heard words to this effect from many defenders of the Capitol Police — many of them defending police for the first and only time in their lives. I am not convinced. Yes, Babbitt was trespassing. Yes, it was reckless to climb through that door. No, I can’t defend her decision, or tell you what in the world could have possibly been going through her mind when she made it. Even so, she was a 5’2”, 110-pound, middle aged, unarmed woman. The male officer who shot her was easily twice her size. Could he not have subdued or restrained her through less lethal means? It’s clear in hindsight that she posed no significant physical risk to him, but is it plausible that he reasonably believed otherwise? Again, I’m not convinced, because we simply do not have enough relevant details about what unfolded to determine either way.
Another important question: Did that officer verbally warn her that he was going to shoot? There were indeed all kinds of visual cues that she was not supposed to climb through the door. But did he yell to her and say, “Stop or I will shoot”? The fact that they aren’t telling us whether he issued a verbal warning makes me very suspicious that he did not. Again, we simply do not know because we are being told stunningly little about the case.
Here’s one thing we can say. If the shooting of Ashli Babbitt was justified, then a great many of the high-profile shootings that have sparked BLM riots were also justified. Any logically consistent argument that would validate Babbitt’s killing, would also validate the killing of many BLM martyrs. She was in the process of committing a crime? Yes, so was George Floyd. So was Michael Brown. She was given warnings? We don’t actually know that she was, but we know that Jacob Blake was. She was unarmed but could have still theoretically posed a lethal threat? BLM has protested the police killings even of armed suspects, like Deon Kay in D.C. who was shot while running towards officers with his gun drawn. Many others were not armed but were still presenting themselves as clear physical threats, like Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, who fought officers and stole one of their tasers. She should have known better? Yes, that’s true. Daunte Wright should have known better, too.
If Ashli Babbitt brought her death on herself, if she is to blame, if she is not the victim but the perpetrator who reaped the consequences of her own actions, then the same applies to every name listed above, and then some. If you attempt to get around this conclusion by adding that she was an “insurrectionist” trying to take over a government building, you have made an argument that would potentially put many current BLM and Antifa rioters directly in the line of fire. Though, in their case, they have been allowed to wage assaults on federal buildings for months on end, and sometimes even take over government facilities like police stations and set them on fire, without a single shot being fired at them.
As we have seen, Babbitt was treated, and continues to be treated, according to an entirely different standard. We live under a two-tiered system — one that favors some and not others. Ashli Babbitt falls on the losing side of that coin. And no matter what they might say, or excuses they might offer, in the minds of BLM and the media and our government, that is why her death is not an outrage or a crime.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.