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Prosecutors: No charges for officer who shot and killed former Annapolis resident during Capitol riot

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors will not charge a police officer who shot and killed a former Annapolis area resident as she climbed through the broken part of a door during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Authorities had considered for months whether criminal charges were appropriate for the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran from San Diego. The Justice Department’s decision, though expected, officially closes out the investigation.

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Prosecutors said they had reviewed video of the shooting, along with statements from the officer involved and other officers and witnesses, examined physical evidence from the scene and reviewed the autopsy results.

“Based on that investigation, officials determined that there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution,” the department said in a statement.

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This driver's license photo from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), provided to AP by the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, shows Ashli Babbitt. Babbitt was fatally shot by an employee of the Capitol Police inside the U.S. Capitol building in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, while the rioters were moving toward the House chamber. (Maryland MVA/Courtesy of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
This driver's license photo from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), provided to AP by the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, shows Ashli Babbitt. Babbitt was fatally shot by an employee of the Capitol Police inside the U.S. Capitol building in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, while the rioters were moving toward the House chamber. (Maryland MVA/Courtesy of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office via AP) (AP)

Video clips posted online depict Babbitt, wearing a stars and stripes backpack, stepping up and beginning to go through the waist-high opening of an area of the Capitol known as the Speaker’s Lobby when a gunshot is heard. She falls backward. Another video shows other unidentified people attempting to lift Babbitt up. She can be seen slumping back to the ground.

Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and fervent supporter of former President Donald, lived with her husband and dogs in the Annapolis area and Southern Maryland before a divorce and move to San Diego in recent years.

She owned a townhouse for five years near Cape St. Claire in Annapolis, according to state property records. She flew the American flag and stuck military plaques in the yard, neighbors recalled.

Before that, records show, she lived in Huntingtown in Calvert County. She worked at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant from 2015 to 2017, according to a spokesman for the energy company Exelon Corp.

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Prosecutors said Babbitt was part of the mob that was trying to get into the House as Capitol Police officers were evacuating members of Congress from the chamber. The officers used furniture to try to barricade the glass doors separating the hallway from the Speaker’s Lobby to try to stave off the rioters, who kept trying to break through those doors, smashing the glass with flagpoles, helmets and other objects.

At the same time, Babbitt tried climbing through one of the doors where the glass was broken out. A Capitol Police officer inside the Speaker’s Lobby then fired a single round from his service weapon, striking Babbitt in the shoulder, prosecutors said.

She fell to the ground before a police tactical team rushed into the area and gave first aid. Babbitt was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Babbitt is one of five people who died in or outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, including a police officer. Three other people died of medical emergencies.

Jan. 6. 2021: People storm the Capitol in Washington.
Jan. 6. 2021: People storm the Capitol in Washington. (John Minchillo/AP)

The Justice Department does not bring criminal charges in most police shootings it investigates in part because of the high burden for prosecution. Criminal charges were not expected in this case because videos of the shooting show Babbitt encroaching into a prohibited space, and second-guessing the actions of an officer during the violent and chaotic day would have been a challenge.

“Specifically, the investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber,” prosecutors said.

Capital Gazette reporter Lilly Price contributed to this story.

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