Ashli Babbitt’s death was a tragedy — but not murder
I am well aware that a lot of folks on my conservative side of the philosophic divide will disagree with my assessment. But I think we should not change principles based on a home team perspective.
It has been my long-held belief that when people commit crimes – even relatively minor crimes – one of the possibilities is getting killed. They may not have deserved it, but sh*t happens.
The Babbitt case is tragic and heartbreaking. By all accounts she was a nice person with good values. But in a lapse of good judgment, she put herself in harm’s way – and occasionally taking such a risk has dire consequences.
Babbitt was not an innocent bystander. She was rioting. She was committing several crimes as she entered the Capitol Building and attempted to enter the House Chamber in which members of Congress and staffers were still present.
Officer Michael Bird was stationed at the door – the last barrier between the members and the mob. She was not an isolated person but the point person that was leading mob into the chamber.
Some argue that since she was unarmed, she posed no threat to the security forces or those in the chamber. She was part of a group that broke the door and knocked out the window through which she was entering the Chamber. The mob was verbally and physically threatening injury and even death to those they were targeting. Whether they would have followed through is unknown. But the very fact that it was unknown required security to do whatever was necessary to stop them.
If she was successful, it is reasonable to believe that others would follow – enough to overpower the security forces. Then what?
That is the essential question. Facing an assault by an angry and violent mob, Bird would have been derelict in his duty if he had assumed that Babbitt and those who followed her onto the House floor would have calmed down. Maybe just walk around and engage in small talk with the members on the floor? The mob had already ignored warnings and demands that they cease and desist. Their threats were credible if not ultimately real.
And a person does not have to be armed to pose a risk to others. In a way, her potential weapon was all the others that would have followed – and there was no assurance that they were not armed with real weapons. One Capitol Hill officer made the distinction between handling one person in the commission of a crime and handling a mob. “The mob is the weapon,” he said.
Bird prevented a potentially greater tragedy by stopping the person in the lead of the mob. No, she was not the official or recognized leader, but just the one who – by happenstance — took a leadership role by volunteering to be the first to break through security.
Whether Babbitt was on a mission to do harm or just caught up in the energy of the moment is inconsequential. Bird had no way to know the intent of the mob other than their voices and actions. His job was to provide security … period. That is what he did.
One of the reasons I call it a tragedy because a young vibrant woman lost her life who should not have. But the primary responsibility rests unfortunately on her shoulders. She was in the commission of a violent crime with the potential of injuring or killing innocent people. It is surprising that there were not more rioters shot. Lethal force is justified when an officer or others are in danger of imminent injury or death. There were a number of situations in which Capitol police would have been justified in using lethal force.
As a footnote, let me make myself perfectly clear. I have no sympathy for the rioters. No … I do not believe they are part of any insurrection. But they were violent and criminal. It has been my consistent belief that the police should have been allowed to use more force – even deadly force – to stop the rioters, looters and arsonists who have caused so much harm, injury and death much too often in our major cities. I have often writing about my belief that our police have been hamstrung by politicians for political reasons. The response to the Capitol Hill riot and all those other riots is hypocrisy of the first magnitude. No riot should be allowed to continue unabated regardless of the political viewpoint of the rioters. Rioters are not heroes. They may not be insurrectionists. But they are criminals.
So, there ‘tis.