Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks sent out a tweet on Sunday of an article from The Hill asking if the murder of Ashli Babbitt was a “justified shooting or fair game.”
The rest of the headline said the shooter of Babbitt makes a “shocking admission.”
Jonathan Turley wrote that he has “long expressed” doubt over the shooting, which he says directly contradicted standards on the use of lethal force by law enforcement.
“What was breathtaking about Byrd’s interview was that he confirmed the worst suspicions about the shooting and raised serious questions over the incident reviews by the Department of Justice and, most recently, the Capitol Police,” Turley wrote.
A 35-year-old Air Force veteran and supporter of President Donald J. Trump, Babbit had no criminal record. Turley says she clearly engaged in criminal conduct on Jan. 6, but questions when being an unarmed trespasser began to carry the death penalty.
“The DOJ report did not read like any post-shooting review I have read as a criminal defense attorney or law professor,” Turley wrote. “The DOJ statement notably does not say that the shooting was clearly justified. Instead, it stressed that ‘prosecutors would have to prove not only that the officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that the officer did so willfully.'”
Turley said Byrd’s interview “demolished” the two reviews that cleared him. This line was the most damaging, Turley wrote.
“I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are.”
Byrd admits he didn’t see a weapon or any immediate threat from Babbitt. Yet he maintains he “saved countless lives.”
Babbitt was the only person — only one — killed on Jan. 6. Turley notes two protesters died of natural causes while a third died from an amphetamine overdose. A police officer died the next day from natural causes as well. Four officers have committed suicide since then.
“No other officers facing similar threats shot anyone in any other part of the Capitol,” Turley wrote. “Even those who were attacked by rioters armed with clubs or other objects.”
Turley notes that under the standard used to clear Byrd, hundreds of rioters could have been shot on Jan. 6 and officers in cities like Seattle and Portland could have killed hundreds of protesters who tried to burn courthouses, took over city halls or occupied police stations during the 2020 summer BLM riots.
“According to the DOJ’s Byrd review, officers in those cities would not have been required to see a weapon in order to use lethal force in defending buildings,” he wrote.
Turley noted his previous condemnation of the Jan. 6 “riot.” But he notes that rioting shouldn’t be seen as a license to use lethal force, particularly against unarmed suspects.
“The ‘job’ of officers, to which Byrd referred, often demands a courage and restraint that few of us could muster,” Turley wrote. “As shown by every other officer that day, it is a job that is often defined by abstinence from rather than application of lethal force. It was the rest of the force who refrained from using lethal force, despite being attacked, that were the extraordinary embodiments of the principles governing their profession.”
Iowa’s congressional delegation has been essentially silent on Babbitt’s murder. But Miller-Meeks’ tweet may signal a change.