Judicial Watch Files $30 Million Wrongful Death Lawsuit against U.S. Government on behalf of Ashli Babbitt’s Husband and Estate

Washington, D.C. – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Government on behalf of the family of Ashli Babbitt, the U.S. Air Force veteran who was shot and killed inside the U.S. Capitol by then-Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd on January 6, 2021 (Estate of Ashli Babbitt and Aaron Babbitt, et al. v. United States of America (No. 3:24-cv-00033)).

The lawsuit includes claims against the U.S. Government for wrongful death, assault and battery, and various negligence issues.

Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt was a 35-year-old resident of San Diego, California, where she owned and operated a successful pool business with her husband Aaron. Ashli traveled alone from San Diego to Washington, DC, to attend the Women for America First (aka Save America) rally on January 6, 2021, at the Ellipse.

As the lawsuit details:

Ashli loved her country and wanted to show her support for President Trump’s America First policies and to see and hear the president speak live while he remained in office. Ashli did not go to Washington as part of a group or for any unlawful or nefarious purpose. She was there to exercise what she believed were her God-given, American liberties and freedoms.

After the rally, Ashli, like a great many other patriotic Americans attending the rally, walked to the Capitol peacefully, a distance of approximately 1.5 miles. Two undercover Metropolitan Police Department officers followed close behind Ashli as she climbed the stairs to the West Terrace. Ashli entered the Capitol on the Senate side long after others had done so. Once inside, Ashli encountered a female Capitol Police officer, who directed her to walk south toward the House side. Ashli complied, walking alone through the Capitol and ultimately arriving at the hallway outside the main door to the House chamber, where demonstrators had gathered. From there, Ashli walked by herself east, along the hallway outside the House chamber, then turned south, reaching the hallway outside the Speaker’s Lobby at the southeast corner of the Capitol.

[ *** ]

The shooting occurred at the east entrance to the Speaker’s Lobby. After demonstrators filled the hallway outside the lobby, two individuals in the crowded, tightly packed hallway struck and dislodged the glass panels in the lobby doors and the right door sidelight. Lt. Byrd, who is a USCP commander and was the incident commander for the House on January 6, 2021, shot Ashli on sight as she raised herself up into the opening of the right door sidelight. Lt. Byrd later confessed that he shot Ashli before seeing her hands or assessing her intentions or even identifying her as female. Ashli was unarmed. Her hands were up in the air, empty, and in plain view of Lt. Byrd and other officers in the lobby.

[ *** ]

The facts speak truth. Ashli was ambushed when she was shot by Lt. Byrd. Multiple witnesses at the scene yelled, “you just murdered her.”

Lt. Byrd was never charged or otherwise punished or disciplined for Ashli’s homicide.

The lawsuit further states:

Lt. Byrd, who is a USCP commander and was the incident commander for the House on January 6, 2021, shot Ashli as she raised herself up into the opening of the right door sidelight.… Not one member of Congress was in the lobby, which was guarded by multiple armed police officers. Additional armed police officers were in the hallway outside the lobby and/or on the adjoining stairway. Ashli could not have seen Lt. Byrd, who was positioned far to Ashli’s left and on the opposite side of the doors, near an opening to the Retiring Room, a distance of approximately 15 feet and an angle of approximately 160 degrees. Sgt. Timothy Lively, one of the armed officers guarding the lobby doors from the hallway, later told officials investigating the shooting, “I saw him . . . there was no way that woman would’ve seen that.” Lt. Byrd, who was not in uniform, did not identify himself as a police officer or otherwise make his presence known to Ashli. Lt. Byrd did not give Ashli any warnings or commands before shooting her dead.

[ *** ]

Ashli remained conscious for minutes or longer after being shot by Lt. Byrd. Ashli experienced extreme pain, suffering, mental anguish, and intense fear before slipping into pre-terminal unconsciousness. The autopsy report identified the cause of death as a “gunshot wound to left anterior shoulder” with an onset interval of “minutes.” The fact that Ashli was alive and conscious in extreme pain and suffering is documented in videos of the shooting. Furthermore, nothing about the wound track described in the autopsy report would be expected to result in immediate death or instantaneous loss of consciousness, and Ashli’s lungs contained blood, further confirming that she was alive and breathing after being shot. Ashli was pronounced dead at Washington Hospital Center at 3:15 p.m. The medical examiner determined that the manner of death was homicide.

The lawsuit argues that, based on prior incidents involving Lt. Byrd, the Capitol Police, Capitol Police Board, and ultimately Congress, as Lt. Byrd’s employer, “knew or should have known that Lt. Byrd was prone to behave in a dangerous or otherwise incompetent manner:”

Less than two years before January 6, 2021, on or about February 25, 2019, Lt. Byrd left his loaded Glock 22 – the same firearm he used to shoot and kill Ashli Babbitt – in a bathroom in the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) complex. Lt. Byrd’s loaded Glock was discovered during a routine security sweep later the same day. Approximately 15,00 to 20,000 people pass through the CVC, which serves as the main entrance for visitors to the U.S. Capitol, daily during peak season (March-July). Lawmakers and staff charged with oversight of the USCP were not made aware of the incident until contacted by a reporter.

Lt. Byrd’s police powers had been revoked on more than one occasion prior to January 6, 2021, for failing to meet or complete semiannual firearms qualification requirements. In fact, Lt. Byrd had a reputation among peers for not being a good shot. Under USCP’s range management system, an officer who fails to meet firearm qualification requirements is given one week of remedial training. If the officer still fails to qualify after remedial training, police powers are then revoked until the officer qualifies.

Lt. Byrd’s police powers also were revoked for a prior off-duty shooting into a stolen, moving vehicle in which the occupants were teenagers or juveniles. The stolen vehicle was Lt. Byrd’s car. Lt. Byrd fired multiple shots at the fleeing vehicle in a suburban area. Stray bullets from Lt. Byrd’s firearm struck the sides of homes nearby. An official investigation found that Lt. Byrd’s use of force was not justified.

Plaintiffs seek “the full and just amount of Thirty Million Dollars ($30,000,000), plus costs and interest according to law, and any and all further relief to which Plaintiffs may be justly entitled.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of California.

“The only homicide on January 6 was the unlawful shooting death of Ashli Babbitt. Her homicide by Lt. Byrd is a scandal beyond belief. This historic lawsuit seeks a measure of justice and government accountability for Ashli’s wrongful death,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch and our supporters are honored to represent Ashli’s steadfast widower Aaron Babbitt and her estate in this legal action. Ashli was shot in cold blood and the rule of law requires justice for her.”

Judicial Watch is extensively investigating the events of January 6.

In October, Judicial Watch announced that it received the court-ordered declaration of James W. Joyce, senior counsel in the Office of the General Counsel for the Capitol Police, in which he describes emails among senior officials of the United States Capitol Police (USCP) in January 2021 that show warnings of possible January 6 protests that could lead to serious disruptions at the U.S. Capitol.

In September, it received records from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, a component of the Department of Justice, in a FOIA lawsuit that detail the extensive apparatus the Biden Justice Department set up to investigate and prosecute January 6 protestors.

previous review of records from that lawsuit highlighted the prosecution declination memorandum justifying the decision not to prosecute U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd for the shooting death of Babbitt.

In January 2023, documents from the Department of the Air Force, Joint Base Andrews, MD, showed U.S. Capitol Police Lieutenant Michael Byrd was housed at taxpayer expense at Joint Base Andrews after he shot and killed U.S. Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

In November 2021, Judicial Watch released multiple audiovisual and photo records from the DC Metropolitan Police Department about the shooting death of Babbitt on January 6, 2021, in the U.S. Capitol Building. The records included a cell phone video of the shooting and an audio of a brief police interview of the shooter, Byrd.

In October 2021, United States Park Police records related to the January 6, 2021, demonstrations at the U.S. Capitol showed that on the day before the January 6 rally featuring President Trump, U.S. Park Police expected a “large portion” of the attendees to march to the U.S. Capitol and that the FBI was monitoring the January 6 demonstrations, including travel to the events by “subjects of interest.”

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EDITORS NOTE: This Judicial Watch column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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