Prosecutors will not file criminal charges against the U.S. Capitol Police officer who fired the shot that killed 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt, who was part of a mob trying to break into the House chamber on Jan. 6, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., announced on Wednesday.
The evidence does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer who fired the shot — who remains unidentified — did so with any intent to violate the law, the office determined. According to a statement from the office, prosecutors would have had to show that the officer who fired the shot used “constitutionally unreasonable” force and that he or she did so “willfully,” a standard that would require proof 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,” according to the statement.
Babbitt is the only person who died of a gunshot wound on Jan. 6. The episode was captured in multiple videos taken by participants in the mob, security cameras and others in the building. Four others, including a Capitol Police officer, died during or immediately after the insurrection.
Videos of the scene show an aggressive mob had gathered just outside the Speaker’s Lobby, a restricted area adjacent to the House chamber, where many lawmakers, aides and reporters remained sheltering. One member of the mob pounded on the door so hard that the glass cracked. Babbitt, as seen in the video, appeared to try to breach the door just before the outstretched arm of the unidentified officer can be seen firing the shot.
Misinformation about what occurred has already figured into other Capitol riot cases. For example, Garrett Miller, a defendant who is facing charges for joining the assault — and called on Twitter for the assassination of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — tried to identify the officer he believed was responsible for the shooting and issued repeated death threats.
The U.S. attorney’s office has formally closed the investigation, noting “the tragic loss of life” and “offering condolences to Ms. Babbitt’s family.”