With the rising demands on the right to release or drop charges against the Jan. 6th insurrectionists and seek retribution against the unnamed cop who shot Ashli Babbitt, Josh Kovensky has some important context about the mounting movement to valorize and make a martyr of Babbitt. Relatedly, Rep. Paul Gosar, Congress’s most prominent white nationalist and antisemite, calls for the unnamed officer to be charged for what he earlier termed Babbitt’s execution. This of course comes just days after the leader of the GOP, ex-President Donald Trump, suggested the unnamed officer should be lynched.
A few more points on Ashli Babbitt.
As I’ve written before, Ashli Babbitt’s death was a tragedy. She didn’t deserve to die. But there is no question that the unknown Capitol Police office who shot her was totally justified in his decision to use lethal force in the situation. Indeed, he would have been negligent not to have taken extreme measures under the circumstances. It was, frankly, borderline offensive when the DOJ announced that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against the person, as though he had somehow skated by for lack of evidence. Lack of evidence may technically be the correct description. But the real conclusion should be justification.
Let’s remember the situation. The Capitol complex is being stormed by a pro-Trump insurrectionary mob set on overturning the results of the election through violence. At this point Capitol Police have lost control of the mob and are in the process of evacuating members of Congress to a secure location. The doors being smashed down are the entrance to the Speaker’s Lobby. On that afternoon that was the last barrier before the insurrectionists got into immediately physical proximity to members of Congress. That was the last line of defense. It’s just a few more yards once you’re past that door.
This is not only the lives of numerous Representatives, Senators and staffers. It’s also multiple members of the succession to the Presidency: the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, etc. So it’s numerous individual lives and the continuity of government itself.
The video footage we’ve all seen shows one officer inside the entrance way guarding the door. With his pistol visibly drawn and aimed at the insurrectionists beating on the door he repeatedly warns the mob banging on the door to come no further. At this point Babbitt breaks through the upper window panel on the door and is shot. The single shot proved fatal.
The foundational justification for the Capitol Police to have firearms is to protect Congress – individual lives and institution – and the orderly functioning of the United States government. This standoff clearly and immediately implicated both those core missions. Babbitt ignored repeated warnings and the visible threat of lethal force.
If Babbitt and those who would certainly have followed her had not been stopped but rushed the few yards to capture, kill or injure the Vice President, the leadership of Congress, numerous members we would be demanding an explanation for the inexplicable fact that no one had acted in such a critical moment, that no one would have used lethal force to prevent a massacre of the Congress.
We are so divided as a nation and it is so offensive to hear fellow travelers either defend or poo poo the insurrection that there is an understandable impulse to take some satisfaction in Babbitt’s death or say she deserved it. She didn’t. We don’t kill people for making terrible decisions or even for all but the very worst crimes. But was the shooting justified? Absolutely. It is almost mind-boggling to think otherwise.
Babbitt is no martyr. She was a deluded, sad person who was taken in by Donald Trump and the chorus of hucksters and crooks who surround him. She made a series of terrible decisions and it cost her her life.