The U.S. Capitol Police is investigating the killing of a woman who entered the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 during a joint session of Congress.
“These individuals actively attacked United States Capitol Police Officers and other uniformed law enforcement officers with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and took up other weapons against our officers. They were determined to enter into the Capitol Building by causing great damage,” the police force’s chief, Steven Sund, said on Jan. 7 in a statement.
As the mobs of protesters were forcing their way toward the House chamber, where members of Congress were sheltering in place, a sworn U.S. Capitol Police employee “discharged their service weapon, striking an adult female,” Sund said.
The female was later identified as Ashli Babbitt, a U.S. Air Force veteran, Sund said. She was 35. Medical assistance was given to Babbitt before she was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead, Sund said.
The U.S. Capitol Police employee who discharged their weapon was placed on administrative leave pending a joint investigation with the Metropolitan Police Department into the matter. Video footage showed a male firing his weapon and striking her.
Police Chief Robert Contee III told reporters during a press conference on Jan. 7 that his department is handling the probe into the death. Three additional deaths took place on Capitol grounds, but their circumstances weren’t detailed.
Babbitt’s family members said they’re seeking answers about what happened.
“No one has contacted us,” a family member told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “No official person has gotten back to us despite the many phone calls.”
Babbitt’s ex-husband, Timothy McEntee, stated that she was “a wonderful woman with a big heart and a strong mind,” according to the Washington Examiner.
“I am in a state of shock and feel absolutely terrible for her family,” McEntee said. “She loved America with all her heart. It’s truly a sad day.”
McEntee, who was married to Babbitt for 14 years, said they served in the U.S. Air Force together.
“[I] immediately knew it was her, but was unaware she was in town, so I initially had doubts because she lives in California,” McEntee said. “But [I] reached out to a friend, and he said she was in town for the rally.”
In the statement, Sund said the breach of the Capitol by protesters was unprecedented.
“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.,” Sund said. “Maintaining public safety in an open environment—specifically for First Amendment activities—has long been a challenge. The USCP had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities.
“But make no mistake—these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior. The actions of the USCP officers were heroic given the situation they faced, and I continue to have tremendous respect in the professionalism and dedication of the women and men of the United States Capitol Police.”