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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Air Force veteran killed during the storming of the Capitol was shot as she began to climb through the broken part of a door leading into an area known as the Speaker’s Lobby, videos posted online show.
Minutes before the shooting Wednesday, the large crowd of angry pro-Trump loyalists, one carrying an American flag, taunted several police officers officers whose backs were to the barricaded doors. Members of the mob sought to force their way into the long corridor, which is just outside the House chamber where members of Congress were supposed to be meeting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
One man punched the glass over the shoulder of an officer, cracking it. Others shouted profanities at the police and at the members of Congress who can be seen through the glass.
Then, in one of the videos, the officers who’d been guarding the doors into the Speaker’s Lobby are seen moving away from the entry.
As an unidentified person yells “Go, bust it down,” Ashli Babbitt, 35, wearing a stars and stripes backpack, steps up and begins to go through the waist-high opening when a gunshot is heard. She falls backward. Another video shows other unidentified people attempting to lift Babbitt up. She slumps back to the ground.
The brief moments captured in the clips, posted on YouTube and Twitter, show the chaotic and often violent moments before Babbitt’s death Wednesday. Capitol Police on Thursday identified Babbitt, of San Diego, as the woman who was fatally shot.
The video clips underscore the hostility and confusion just before Babbitt’s death. A third video shows the gunshot was fired by an unidentified officer inside the Speaker’s Lobby just as other officers wearing helmets and toting weapons had moved up the stairs behind the crowd and had arrived just outside the door. One of them raises his weapon toward the Lobby doors and then quickly lowers it.
The inside of the Speaker’s Lobby appears to be mostly empty at that point, and chairs have been stacked against the doors on the inside.
The U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement Thursday that members of Congress were sheltering-in-place as rioters were forcing their way toward the House chamber.
“A sworn USCP employee discharged their service weapon, striking an adult female,” whom Capitol Police identified as Babbitt.
The videos suggest a lack of communication between the officers, said Mark Lomax, who was executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, and is now CEO of the consulting firm Lancer Cobbs.
“There were police on the protesters side, engaged and embedded with these individuals,” he said. “It did not seem like a threatening situation for the officers.”
But the officer on the other side of the door who shot must have perceived a threat, he said.
Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor and use of force expert at the University of South Carolina, questioned why the officers blocking the door walked away before the tactical officers coming up the stairs took their place.
“That didn’t make sense,” he said. “Things could have been avoided with them waiting 30 seconds probably.”
Wednesday’s pro-Trump rampage at the Capitol shocked other countries around the world and led to the resignations of three senior Capitol security officials over the failure to stop the breach.
Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died Thursday night from injuries suffered during the riot. He’s the fifth person to die because of the Capitol siege. Three other people died after “medical emergencies.
On social media, Babbitt often ranted against President Trump’s frequent targets — illegal immigration, government mandates to contain the coronavirus and, most of all, his critics.
Her Twitter account promoted mainstream conservative views but also included references to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which centers on the baseless belief that Trump has been secretly fighting deep state enemies and a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals operating a child sex trafficking ring.
Babbitt, who identified as a Libertarian and supporter of the Second Amendment, frequently posted unsubstantiated views about election fraud by the president and his most extreme supporters — activists whose conspiracy theories and unflinching support for Trump have attracted large online followings.
Videos she posted online show her fulminating against illegal immigration. Her posts were at times profane.
Babbitt appeared to view pleas to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as an affront to her personal freedoms. She backed a recall drive against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has imposed strict stay-at-home orders.
“Mask Free Autonomous Zone Better Known as America,” read a large sign on the front door of a pool service business she ran with her husband in Spring Valley, near San Diego.