Authorities Identify Woman Killed By Police During U.S. Capitol Rioting

Jan 7, 2021
Originally published on January 7, 2021 3:06 pm

The United States Capitol Police have identified the woman who was shot and killed by one of their officers during the pro-Trump rioting on Wednesday as Ashli E. Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from the San Diego area.

She was among the rioters who stormed the Capitol building.

Babbitt, 35, was one of four people who died during Wednesday's chaotic events, according to Washington's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). MPD Police Chief Robert Contee said the three others who died experienced unspecified "medical emergencies."

Ashli Babbitt of San Diego, seen here in a photo posted on Twitter in 2020, was shot and killed by U.S. Capitol Police during the insurrection at the Capitol on Wednesday.
@Ashli_Babbitt / Screenshot by NPR

Babbitt's social media profiles indicate that she had most recently worked at a pool service company in Southern California. The military confirmed to NPR that she was also a veteran of the United States Air Force, where she most recently achieved the rank of senior airman. Babbitt entered active duty with the military in 2004, serving until 2008. After that, she served with the Air Force reserve from 2008 to 2010, and the Air National Guard from 2010 to 2016. During her service, she received the Iraq Campaign Medal, indicating she served there in support of the U.S. war.

"She saw first hand through her multiple deployments overseas how others were treated and was grateful to have the freedoms we have in America," her ex-husband and fellow Air Force veteran, Timothy McEntee, told NPR by email.

Babbitt was a libertarian and supporter of President Trump, according to her social media posts, as well as a follower of the far-right conspiracy theory known as QAnon. The Anti-Defamation League describes QAnon as a "wide-reaching conspiracy theory popular among a range of right-wing extremists" and states the movement has "marked undertones of antisemitism and xenophobia."

Babbitt frequently retweeted far-right figures like the pro-Trump lawyer L. Lin Wood, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

McEntee told NPR that Babbitt was known for her outspoken political views.

"She had a personality that you either loved or hated," he wrote. "She wasn't apologetic about it ... she was proud of it, just like she was proud of her country and proud to be an American."

"I will be in DC on the 6th!" she posted in the days leading up to Wednesday's planned demonstrations. "God bless America and WWG1WGA." That acronym — meaning, "Where We Go One, We Go All" — is a slogan of the QAnon movement.

Video of the shooting shows a chaotic scene inside the Capitol building that suddenly turned bloody.

Babbitt is seen on the footage inside the Capitol wearing a backpack and Trump flag among a large group of rioters. When she approaches a window, a shot is heard and she falls back onto the floor.

A witness to the shooting told the TV station WUSA9 that "a number of police and Secret Service were saying, 'get down, get back, get out of the way.' She didn't heed the call." At that point, the witness said, "they shot her in the neck." (NPR was unable to independently contact the witness, but he also appears in footage of the shooting itself.)

"As protesters were forcing their way toward the House Chamber where Members of Congress were sheltering in place, a sworn USCP employee discharged their service weapon, striking an adult female," the United States Capitol Police wrote in a statement on Thursday.

"Medical assistance was rendered immediately, and the female was transported to the hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries."

A law enforcement official told NPR that Babbitt was unarmed.

Members of Babbitt's family expressed shock at the news.

"I'm numb. I'm devastated. Nobody from DC notified my son and we found out on TV," Ashli Babbitt's mother-in-law, Robin Babbitt, told the New York Post.

"Her laugh was infectious and her smile would brighten up any dark situation," Timothy McEntee told NPR. "Her loss won't be an easy pill to swallow. I'm struggling myself to accept she's no longer with us."

The Capitol Police along with the MPD are investigating the shooting, and the officer who killed Babbitt has been placed on administrative leave, per standard policy.

Regardless of the outcome of that investigation, on Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser blamed President Trump for the circumstances that led to Babbitt's death.

"His constant and divisive rhetoric led to the abhorrent actions we saw," said Bowser. "And sadly it led to a loss of life that will forever stain what could have been and what should have been a peaceful transfer of power."

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Capitol Police have identified the woman who was shot and killed by one of their officers yesterday during the pro-Trump rioting at the Capitol. Ashli E. Babbitt was an Air Force veteran from the San Diego area. She was among the rioters who stormed the Capitol building. Police say the officer involved is on leave, pending an investigation. No details have been released about how she was shot. NPR's Eric Westervelt has more.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: The 35-year-old California native served in the U.S. Air Force in both active duty and in the Air Guard and Reserves from 2004 to 2016, according to military records. Babbitt did multiple overseas tours, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, achieving the rank of senior airman. She was married to fellow service member Timothy McEntee for 14 years before splitting up in 2019. McEntee told NPR in an email today that in those overseas deployments, Ashli, quote, "saw firsthand how others were treated and was grateful to have the freedoms we have in America." She had remarried recently, and she and her new husband ran a pool supply company in Southern California.

And according to her many social media posts, she was a fierce supporter of President Trump and embraced many of his conspiracy theories and serial falsehoods about election fraud. And those posts also show she was a follower of QAnon. That's the convoluted far-right conspiracy theory that believes Trump is fighting a shadowy group of deep-state child abusers. The Anti-Defamation League describes QAnon as popular among right-wing extremists and with marked undertones of anti-Semitism and xenophobia. She recently retweeted calls for Vice President Pence to resign and face charges of treason.

McEntee, her former husband, says Babbitt was known for her outspoken views. He wrote to NPR, "she had a personality you either loved or hated. She wasn't apologetic about it. She was proud of it, just like she was proud of her country," end quote.

In video footage inside the Capitol yesterday, Babbitt is seen wearing a backpack and Trump flag around her waist among a large group of fellow rioters. When she approaches a window, a gunshot rings out, and she falls back onto the floor bleeding. She died shortly after in a hospital. In some of Babbitt's last social media messages, she retweeted QAnon posts and its code phrase about the storm. She wrote, nothing will stop us. They can try and try and try, but the storm is here, and it's descending upon D.C. in less than 24 hours, dark to light. Eric Westervelt, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.