Ethics Alarms already noted Jonathan Turley’s accurate and searing condemnation of the outrageous and sinister double standard applied to Lt. Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt on January 6. Incredibly, the blatantly partisan wound on the illusion of our justice system’s integrity got worse after Turley’s first post on the topic. The investigation of the mind-meltingly stupid riot concluded that it was not coordinated, was not incited by Donald Trump, and was not an “insurrection,” just as any objective and reasonably informed citizen could have figured out by themselves. Then Byrd, whose identity had been shielded from the public (and oddly unrevealed by the mainstream media, who could have discovered and published it if they were still practicing journalism), gave a nauseating NBC interview in which he pronounced himself a hero, made the absurd claim that he had saved untold lives by shooting an unarmed woman, and, most significantly, revealed that he had no legal basis to use deadly force. (He also revealed himself to be unfit to be trusted with a weapon.)
This prompted Turley to write his second attack on the politicized cover-up. Turley, despite the names he is called by the aspiring totalitarians of the Far Left and the Trump-Deranged, is a Democrat and a lifetime liberal. Because of what can only be an abundance of character, he has not had his values warped by being marinated in the campus culture of his typically uber-woke institution, George Washington University. Not had he shied away from disparaging the illiberal and anit-Democratic antics of the Axis of Unethical Conduct (“the resistance,” Democrats and the mainstream media) during their four-plus year effort to destroy Donald Trump. He has been remarkably consistent, legally accurate, fair, and right in this, and has paid the price.
In the Virtues, Values and Duties page here (Have you ever visited? You should you know…) I list what I call “The Seven Enabling Virtues.” These are character traits that often are necessary to allow us to be ethical:
Turley annoys me sometimes with his professorial reserve (developments that should send American screaming into the streets are just “troubling” or “problematical” in his typical lexicon), but he is well-girded in all of the seven. Every time he goes against the prevailing progressive narrative, he is called a Trumpist, a phony, a Nazi, and worse. His integrity and dedication to truth-telling has undoubtedly cost him speaking gigs, book sales and TV interviews on any network but Fox. Yet Turley has not backed down.
Turley’s recent article in The Hill regarding the Babbitt shooting is superb.
- “[W]hat was breathtaking about Byrd’s interview was that he confirmed the worst suspicions about the shooting and raised serious questions over the incident reviews by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and, most recently, the Capitol Police….Of all of the lines from Byrd, this one stands out: “I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are.” So, Byrd admitted he did not see a weapon or an immediate threat from Babbitt beyond her trying to enter through the window…”
- “While the Supreme Court, in cases such as Graham v. Connor, has said that courts must consider “the facts and circumstances of each particular case,” it has emphasized that lethal force must be used only against someone who is “an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and … is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” Particularly with armed assailants, the standard governing “imminent harm” recognizes that these decisions must often be made in the most chaotic and brief encounters.Under these standards, police officers should not shoot unarmed suspects or rioters without a clear threat to themselves or fellow officers. That even applies to armed suspects who fail to obey orders….”
- “The DOJ report did not read like any post-shooting review I have read as a criminal defense attorney or law professor. The DOJ statement notably does not say that the shooting was clearly justified. Instead, it stressed that “prosecutors would have to prove not only that the officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that the officer did so ‘willfully.’” It seemed simply to shrug and say that the DOJ did not believe it could prove “a bad purpose to disregard the law” and that “evidence that an officer acted out of fear, mistake, panic, misperception, negligence, or even poor judgment cannot establish the high level of intent.”
- “Legal experts and the media have avoided the obvious implications of the two reviews in the Babbitt shooting. Under this standard, hundreds of rioters could have been gunned down on Jan. 6 — and officers in cities such as Seattle or Portland, Ore., could have killed hundreds of violent protesters who tried to burn courthouses, took over city halls or occupied police stations during last summer’s widespread rioting. In all of those protests, a small number of activists from both political extremes showed up prepared for violence and pushed others to riot. According to the DOJ’s Byrd review, officers in those cities would not have been required to see a weapon in order to use lethal force in defending buildings.”
The last is a point every newspaper with any integrity should be highlighting in editorials, and any pundits of any political persuasion should be pounding on. (Of course, there are no newspapers with integrity.) The fact that they are not tells us the degree to which not only our journalism is corrupt but our legal system and government as well. Babbitt’s death is acceptable because she was white and the cop who shot her was black. (No, Turley won’t go there. I understand.) Her death is acceptable because she was a conservative who supported President Trump. This blatant race-based, partisan double standard and perversion of justice has occurred because those in power assume that nobody will dare call it what it is.
[Note: This was originally intended to be Part I of two, with the next installment reviewing some of the comment threads after Turley’s piece. I waited too long, and now I’m not even sure what I was thinking of when that follow-up was in my plans. I’m sorry.]
57 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Prof. Jonathan Turley (And The Indefensible Whitewash Of The Shooting Of Ashli Babbitt)”
Remember Christopher David?
Under this rule, the cops would have been in their rights to gun down a man interfering with their duties to protect a courthouse from violent arsonists.
There’s no substitute in 2021 for being a black officer shooting a white person. Guaranteed instant exoneration in DC, at least.
Even stipulating that Byrd did not intentionally shoot an unarmed woman with malice aforethought, is that really the standard we hold police shootings to in DC? It is impossible to reconcile the act with the circumstances and come away with any conclusion less than negligent homicide. Even unintentional manslaughter seems out of reach, given what we know.
This is a shocking double-standard that has rewritten the rules for double-standards. When we allow an officer to get away with shooting an unarmed woman who was not attacking him or anyone else (unless you count the window she was coming through) primarily because of his race and/or politics, we have crossed a Rubicon from which there is no safe return.
Even worse, the perpetrator imagines himself heroic for shooting an unarmed woman who’s worst transgression appears to be trespassing. Even ignoring the disparity of force between male and female, shouldn’t we expect our officers to at least wait for some kind of danger to themselves or others before executing unarmed people?
I truly hope that her family is able to sue this man for what he did, but I am not sanguine at all.
I guess I always assumed growing up that there were a few things you should avoid doing if you don’t want to be shot. Like try to take a police officer’s gun.
I guess I would put breaking into the Capitol Building on that list.
Yeah, it’s not a great idea. Still, you have to wonder why the hundreds (thousands?) of other officers on duty, even those directly fighting with protesters, didn’t find it necessary to shoot anyone.
We don’t have to think about the hundreds of other police officers out on the plaza. Why not ask the SWAT officers in that very stairwell why they didn’t shoot her, you know the ones who rendered aid to her. That would be an interesting conversation.
In some photos, it looks like there may also be some officers, farther back, in the same room as Byrd. It would be interesting if a few broke ranks and we could hear their stories, or at least why no one else fired a weapon. They’d probably be risking their pensions.
Byrd the Hero had over half a year to massage his story, and it still stinks. Lester Holt (NBC) asked if knowing whether Babbitt was unarmed made any difference in his decision-making; Byrd said “It did not”.
>> Lester Holt (NBC) asked if knowing whether Babbitt was unarmed made any difference in his decision-making; Byrd said “It did not”
I mean, that is the correct answer. Knowing ex-post facto that the women was unarmed is irrelevant. All that matters is what was known and observable when the women was entering the capitol.
There is plenty fishy about those circumstances without getting into speculation based on unknowable facts.
“Byrd said “It did not”…”I mean, that is the correct answer. Knowing ex-post facto that the women was unarmed is irrelevant.”
I took it to mean he didn’t care whether she was armed or not. I’m also suspicious of his claim that he couldn’t see her hands. What, a small woman climbing through a window is doing so with her hands behind her back? Like I said, Byrd has had months to craft his spin.
Yes, there’s no doubt that she is not blameless in her own demise. That is absolutely a point in mitigation, and it is not the only one. But several larger points stand in aggravation.
But that fact should not be used to blame an apparent victim. We train our police officers not to use deadly force when it is not called for. Heck, any civilized human being worth the description trains themselves not to do that before ever carrying a firearm or other weapon. One of the situations where deadly force is not called for is one in which the lives of themselves or others are not directly threatened, and the lack of the presence of a weapon by the offender is a major factor in such a threat. Generally, a disparity of force of that magnitude requires an officer not to use deadly force.
The fact that Byrd implied it did not matter to him whether or not she was armed clearly illustrates a problem with his comprehension of appropriate use of deadly force. Now, an unarmed offender isn’t the only fact that goes into a determination of force, but it is a substantial one. Also, it is a factor that she was a woman and not a man, generally a contraindication of deadly force. Finally, there is no indication that she threatened Byrd or others in any way other than her unauthorized presence.
Taken together, it seems clear to me that this was a wrongful death that has been whitewashed. I stand ready to change my mind should sufficient evidence to the contrary ever surface, but Byrd’s interview was essentially, “Yeah, she needed killing, armed or not.” Needless to say, that is an unconvincing argument to me.
Yikes. George Floyd was absolutely complicit in his own demise: breaking the law, resisting arrest, ingesting substances that could have killed him knee or not, and Chauvin didn’t use deadly force, and was not intending to kill him. Rioting and trespass are not capital crimes. Her conduct short of presenting a direct threat to the life of the officer and others—of which there was no sufficient evidence—is 100% irrelevant to the discussion.
Rioting and trespass are not capital crimes.
Well, of course they aren’t. But when we lawlessly place ourselves into a situation where we might be killed, we have to accept some responsibility for that eventuality. Had she obeyed the law, she would not be dead.
Her conduct short of presenting a direct threat to the life of the officer and others—of which there was no sufficient evidence—is 100% irrelevant to the discussion.
They are irrelevant only in the fact that her actions did not in anyway justify her fate. But that’s not what I’m talking about. She placed herself deliberately in harms way without regard for the law. That action lead directly to her demise, however unjustified. Therefore, part of the blame for her death rests with her. You cannot separate her death from the chain of events that produced it, and her presence there was knowingly risky and knowingly lawless.
If I go into a known dangerous place without regard for my own safety and get killed or maimed, I share some of the blame for that fate. It doesn’t justify what happened in any way, but to knowingly engage in a dangerous activity is to assume those risks for yourself.
But Glenn, blame doesn’t change the responsibility of the officer in any way, any more than it is relevant that a rape victim was scantily clad and walking at night down an alley.
I agree it doesn’t change the responsibility of the officer in any way.
The only way your analogy is comparable is if said victim knows she is going into a situation where she is in danger. Wearing scanty clothing alone is not, in itself, dangerous behavior. Wearing it after midnight in a dark inner-city street known for violence is another mater.
“Rioting and trespass are not capital crimes.”
Of course they aren’t… What’s your point? There are states where capital punishment doesn’t exist. Does that mean police in those areas should let active shooters have their way until they run out of ammo? Only use tasers? Wait wait… No, of course not. We don’t taser people as punishment for crimes, right?
Point? That under current law, all that matters is whether the victim threatens the cop or others in a way that justified deadly force. The context doesn’t matter, except to that extent. So the fact that she was “rioting” doesn’t matter unless there was a specific and imminent threat posed to the cop or a specific individual. Otherwise your using the “mad dog” template, and that’s illegal. If the cop really shot her because he thought it would save “countless lives,” then he was nuts, as well as factually wrong: the lawmakers had all been evacuated.
I remember that you made this argument the first time the shooting came up. Try this: find me an analogous shooting where the cop was exonerated. I can’t find one.
What does an analogous shooting even look like? Find me one where the cop was convicted.
Part of the problem, which we talked about here, several times, was how over the summer of 2020 the riots in places like Portland were being allowed to go on unabated. I think the exact phrase was that they were “being given space”. I’m not sure that a good parallel exists, but if it did, it doesn’t exist this side of the millennium.
I disagree, I said it in the last thread on this.
We’ve been talking about officer involved shootings for years now, from Darren Wilson to Derrick Chauvin. If looks like the commentariat is inventing a whole new standard of rules for officer involved shootings, and I’d love for anyone to explain why.
Take this for example:
“Of all of the lines from Byrd, this one stands out: “I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are.” So, Byrd admitted he did not see a weapon or an immediate threat from Babbitt beyond her trying to enter through the window…”
The immediate threat was the mass of people breaking windows and climbing over barricades. I said in my last post, I’ll repeat it:
“Was Byrd supposed to let them in? Use his X-Ray vision to tell who did and did not have weapons? Are we going to pretend that women cannot be a threat by the virtue of her tits? How much risk was he supposed to take on before acting, and when the actual hell did that become the standard?”
Turley addresses this out of the side of his mouth in his Hill piece:
“Particularly with armed assailants, the standard governing “imminent harm” recognizes that these decisions must often be made in the most chaotic and brief encounters.”
“Particularly with armed assailants”, but not uniquely with armed assailants. I need you all to think back to the case of Michael Brown, the unarmed black man who was charging Darren Wilson. Michael Brown was unarmed, but no one thought he wasn’t dangerous. Babbitt was a 35 year old veteran backed up by a hundred people in that hallway. I’m not going to pretend they didn’t pose a threat to the officers or the congressmembers behind them, and I’m not going to pretend that the officer didn’t have a reasonable expectation of harm.
I’m sorry guys… But if the facts of this case don’t lead to a finding of justifiable homicide, what does?
I should have said “killings” not “shootings”, obviously Chauvin did not shoot Floyd.
Babbitt was a 35 year old veteran backed up by a hundred people in that hallway. I’m not going to pretend they didn’t pose a threat to the officers or the congressmembers behind them, and I’m not going to pretend that the officer didn’t have a reasonable expectation of harm.
Her actions, beyond being in a place where she shouldn’t be, did not appear threatening. She displayed no weapon or disposition to do mayhem or murder beyond attempting to enter. Byrd was not standing in front of her, he quite possibly was out of her view when he shot her, ambush-style, from her left. He did nothing to physically prevent her from coming through that window. Even stranger, police that had been blocking their path vacated the area for no apparent reason just before she attempted entry.
Police have a duty to place their lives on the line, and in my view, the act was cowardly. He did nothing but wait until someone tried to enter the room where, by the way, no congresspeople were still visible, then shot shot her before she even got through. In my view, the shooting was both unjustified, and the way it was executed, cowardly.
I just don’t understand these takes… Have you seen the video? Because as an example: the reason those officers left isn’t exactly hard to discern, they were afraid. The crowd was saying variations of “We don’t want to hurt you, but we’re going through those doors, and we will, think of your family”. Being unclear at this point either requires an epic level of incredulity, or a lack of information.
Further from that though…
“Her actions, beyond being in a place where she shouldn’t be, did not appear threatening.”
“did not appear threatening?” She was climbing through a window that she, or someone beside her had just broken through, to get into an area from which there was no escape, during a riot where people were calling for the deaths of politicians. The fact of the matter is that with 20/20 hindsight, the rioters didn’t seem to have much of a plan and seemed as surprised as anyone that they got as far as they did… But what were the people on the ground supposed to think they were going to do, sing Kumbaya? And why the hell do the officers have a duty to wait and see exactly how the giant, threatening mob is going to hurt them before responding?
“He did nothing to physically prevent her from coming through that window.”
Are you saying he should have? Not sorry: That is an insanely stupid requirement. You’re reaching.
“He did nothing but wait until someone tried to enter the room where, by the way, no congresspeople were still visible”
You say that like it matters. They were there. But even if they weren’t… If a mob of people were climbing through windows just to get at me, and there weren’t any people behind me; I’d open fire. I wouldn’t think twice about it. I’d show no remorse.
I’m not going to say Byrd was a hero, but he might have been. It’s moral luck that there weren’t any congresspeople that interacted with the mob, and if they had, they might have been hurt, or worse.
Being afraid of what might happen is not good enough. There has to be a credible threat of imminent harm. Absent evidence of a weapon, and there wasn’t one, or a credible physical threat—like if Ashli were the size of Mike Brown and charging Byrd, you just can’t shoot a rioter.
Are you seriously asserting that you don’t think rioters crawling through a window into a space you cannot escape from creates a credible threat of imminent harm?
Not according to the standards being used to fire and prosecute police in other situations it doesn’t. Turley’s analysis is correct. Similarly, a cop can’t randomly shoot a member of a mob to scare the rest off. I’m not sure that shouldn’t be permitted, but as the law has been enforced in all other cases, it isn’t—and that’s what Byrd did.
Because justice is miscarried in many instances means justice should be miscarried in this?
That’s a rationalization.
No, because the law has to have predictable standards, or IT is unethical, and is a trap for citizens. Once the law settles the standards of what constitutes excessive use of deadly force, it has to hew to that standard, or officially change it. Ignoring the standard, as was don’t here, is unethical as well as a legal atrocity.
And you are advocating for the law to settle on the side of more chaos.
Which side is THAT? I’m advocating less chaos by virtue of consistency and integrity. “Only shoot the white rioters” is unethical, no?
No, you want the law to consistently allow rioters to riot and destroy and endanger society and you want the law to consistently allow those resisting arrest to get a pass on being apprehended.
That can only incentivize further societal chaos during times of stress.
This is an unethical outcome.
Come on. I want a single standard that police can function under and lawbreakers can count on. I just wrote that I would advocate allowing fleeing felons to be shot; rioters likewise. But having separate rules according to the races of the shooter and shootee and the political motives of the rioters is lawlessness itself. How were the National Guard shooters at Kent State different from Byrd?
1) And the consistent standard you’ve advocated for here is on the side of those miscarrying justice. The ethical thing to do is recognize that this shooting was justifiable and that railroading the officer in the name of consistency is unethical.
Kent State – let’s see, roughly three platoons worth of well armed and organized soldiers versus a crowd of mostly dispersed students several hundred feet away…analogized to Byrd, alone, for all he knows the only thing between a mob violently breaching blockades and Congress.
“And the consistent standard you’ve advocated for here is on the side of those miscarrying justice. The ethical thing to do is recognize that this shooting was justifiable and that railroading the officer in the name of consistency is unethical.”
It’s still the standard. I cannot defend a U turn in that standard because of the respective races of the participants and the political views of the victim.
No, it’s an unethical standard being pushed by woke mobs. It’s ethics surrender to give in to that standard.
And frankly, self-defense standards *do* exist. And it’s pure imagination to think Byrd wasn’t in that scenario along side his other mission – defense of others.
I’ve done a fair amount of defense work. I don’t know a theory that would make an unarmed woman, in any circumstances, crawling through a broken door or window a legitimate cause for deadly force based on total supposition. Turley was right: the officer’s statements show that it wasn’t self-defense. “Under these standards, police officers should not shoot unarmed suspects or rioters without a clear threat to themselves or fellow officers….Of all of the lines from Byrd, this one stands out: “I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are.” he cannot claim he was in reasonable fear of his life or anyone else’s if he admits he did not know what her intentions were. (Protester or rioter?)
Turley correctly suggests that the DOJ review treated Babbitt as an “insurrectionist,” which she was not.
Firing into an unruly crowd should take an extraordinary amount of justification: that’s how massacres are started. Just the thought of a possibility (not even an actual suspicion) that some could be armed just doesn’t cut it.
By Byrd’s rationalizations that he couldn’t see her hands (a small woman climbing through a window has her hands behind her, maybe?), and that she had a backpack he couldn’t see into (she probably had pockets he couldn’t see either), maybe the new standard (with a POC exception, of course) will be that it’s a justified shoot unless the victim is naked with his hands in the air.
“Similarly, a cop can’t randomly shoot a member of a mob to scare the rest off. I’m not sure that shouldn’t be permitted, but as the law has been enforced in all other cases, it isn’t—and that’s what Byrd did.”
I thought that something like this was in play, and I was going to characterize it as “If you aren’t going to shoot all of them, you can’t shoot any of them.” “Random” is an interesting word in that context, and I think that it’s where a lot of people on the other side of this are hung up; Babbitt’s shooting was randomly not random. It was random in that anyone could have decided to climb through that window first, and Byrd probably would have shot anyone who climbed through that window…. But it was not random because she was in fact the person who climbed through it first.
And so we have people sizing up who would win in a scuffle, citing Babbitt’s height, weight, race and gender, because if it wasn’t random, then there should be a reason why Babbitt should be shot, some threat that she uniquely posed… Which doesn’t seem very likely. It’s actually kind of absurd. Granted: If Babbitt was the only person in that hall, then you’re all right, the police should have been able to detain her without lethal force. But that in itself is kind of absurd because it relies on a rhetorical that doesn’t exist: Babbitt wasn’t alone in that hallway. The mob posed more of a threat to the officers, Byrd included, than any of the members of that mob individually.
So what’s the process for dealing with that? Let’s go a step further, let’s say that there were 10 men on the wrong side of the barricade, let’s say they all charged Byrd at the same time: Could he shoot at any of them? Probably. Does that mean he had to shoot all of them? No. How should he pick his first target? Does it have to be the closest one to him? The one he thinks will do the most damage? Does he get all 10 before one of them gets him? Food for thought.
But that’s also rhetorical, because they never got to that point. Byrd shot Babbitt, and we’ll never know what the mob would have done on the wrong side of the barricade because they never got there. So the first question is “Did Byrd think that Babbitt pose a threat to either him or someone else?” I think the answer is pretty obviously yes. The second question is “Was that reasonable?” And I think it was.
I don’t see how you get around the fact that by such a standard any mob is similarly a threat, and any member of it can be shot. Babbitt herself has to be a threat. She can’t be legally shot as a member of a collective—a representative sacrifice to order. Byrd didn’t even shout a warning. Was it his dscretion to, say, not shoot Babbitt but shoot whoever followed her through the broken class?
That is exactly right. By extension, then, the police could have laid waste to numerous people during the most peaceful BLM prayer sessions supporting St. George of the Floyd in Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, and Portland, no questions asked. That policy seems to be a good one.
I don’t understand at all why y’all keep jumping to some wild conclusion here. There is a difference between a protest or other assembly and a riot. And within the continuum of riots, there are differences in levels of aggression and the targets of aggression.
Several times now yall have decided that the reasonable nature of shooting Ashli Babbitt given the *pretty clear* context of that riot somehow means that police can start shooting people at…. prayer sessions?
First: Of course it was his discretion. Who else would have it? Go back to my rhetorical: Ten 300 pound men are charging at you, obviously intending to do you harm. Which one do you shoot? The closest? The most threatening looking one? Does it really matter? Then, once you’ve shot one, the other nine break and start running, do you have to shoot the other nine as they flee out of an abundance of fairness? Of course not, and Babbitt’s shooting was less arbitrary than that. Byrd didn’t shoot a rioter at random, he shot the first person through the barricade.
Second, I’m not “getting around” anything. First off, the legal questions are “Did officer Byrd believe that there was an imminent harm to himself or others?” and “was that belief reasonable?”. If that standard applied, would more rioters be shot? Maybe. Probably. And where’s the limiting principle of that? When the protest is obviously not violent. When they haven’t broken down the barricades, and gone screaming into a public building calling for the deaths of their political opponents? When the belief of imminent harm isn’t reasonable.
And sure, that’s a blurry, subjective line. We can discuss cases on the margin, armchair quarterback certain results…. This isn’t one of them. This isn’t a hard call. I have no conception under God why you’ve made it one.
I just don’t understand these takes… Have you seen the video? Because as an example: the reason those officers left isn’t exactly hard to discern, they were afraid.
I disagree that they were afraid, and if they were, they committed a cowardly act. It is their job to stand before a mob and protect their charges. Full stop.
Are you saying he should have? Not sorry: That is an insanely stupid requirement. You’re reaching.
I am saying at minimum, he should’ve stood before the door with his firearm presented. And it isn’t me who’s reaching. You seem to think being a police officer means hiding and sniping at potentially unarmed men and women if they get far enough out of line. What I saw in that video was cowardice, pure and simple.
There was no obvious credible threat there. As far as I can tell, Byrd was out of her view from where she was. He waited till she stuck part of her body through, ran out, shot her, and ducked back.
That’s what’s in the video.
“I disagree that they were afraid, and if they were, they committed a cowardly act. It is their job to stand before a mob and protect their charges. Full stop.”
Which is what they did. Are you under the impression that this was going to be held under the code duello? That they were going to wrestle to see if they got to go through to the congresspeople? That they were under some kind of duty to disarm down to some common denominator? No. Their job was to make sure that no one got through, not to make sure that the rioters were as safe and comfortable as possible.
“I am saying at minimum, he should’ve stood before the door with his firearm presented.”
You want to call him a coward for not standing down the mob, steely-eyed, in a high-noon style shootout?
You know what I think the problem is? And I’m being completely serious here: I think you’ve watched too many action movies and have unrealistic expectations of what normal behavior looks like in a situation like this. This is insane. What if one of the rioters had a gun? Byrd didn’t have a responsibility to give them a target so that they could fire first and only then return fire. You are making up new standards for police engagement that you would not want applied to other situations.
“You seem to think being a police officer means hiding and sniping at potentially unarmed men and women if they get far enough out of line.”
This isn’t serious anymore. You think you could turn that rhetoric up any further? I want to see what the next level looks like.
Nope. You may have the last word in this debate.
Hey, I’d like to see the return of allowing officers to fire at fleeing felons, but the point is how the current standards are being applied. A cop was prosecuted and fired for firing at a fleeing felon who struggled with him and shot a taser at him as he fled. An officer was just sentenced to 25 years for shooting a suicidal man who wouldn’t lower his pistol. But Byrd doesn’t even lose his job when he fires based on speculation that a rioter might be armed? Turley’s right: by that standard, he could have mowed down as many rioters as he wished.
The only questions you have to answer is: would Byrd still be on the force and not be prosecuted if Babbitt had been black and he were white, and if it was a BLM riot instead of a bunch of MAGA idiots?
Bottom up, or Top down?
We can point out the hypocrisy of the treatments of Byrd and all those other cases, but if you actually want to return to a normal where police can actually respond using force to violent crimes, criticizing someone for using force to counter a violent crime seems really counterintuitive.
The difference is that Michael Brown a six and a half foot tall, 300 pound male who tried to wrestle Wilson’s gun from him, and after being told to stop, refused to stop, charged the officer and ended up dead. Babbitt was a five feet, 2 inches tall, surrounded by other idiots in the stairwell, along with number of heavily armed police officers who didn’t intervene to arrest her from trying to jump through the busted door window, and Byrd trained his firearm on the window for considerable time before shooting her.
This is aside from the way both matters were handled. Within hours, we knew who Wilson was, his rank, his badge number, his history, and the nature of what had happened. It has taken 8 months for us to learn the name, rank, and information about Byrd, and we didn’t receive it from the Capitol Police but through an interview with that bozo Lester Holt asking pre-planned questions with relatively little follow-up. Wilson wasn’t asked if he thought himself a hero; Byrd held himself out as a classic Greek mythological hero up there with the likes of Hercules and Percy Jackson.
First, Babbitt’s stats are only relevant to a point. The thing that I think you’re missing are the other 100 or so other people. The questions that are legally material are “Did Byrd believe there to be an imminent threat to himself or others?” and “was that belief reasonable?” This seems just as obvious as any other case where self-defense has been cited, but it’s like all the roles are reversing.
Second, If you want to argue that we should have known Byrd’s name earlier, I’m there for that. I think that the name was being withheld to protect the safety of the officer, and to an extent that makes sense, because it wouldn’t surprise me even a little bit if someone took a run at him or his family… But that’s never stopped them before, and it really shouldn’t stop them ever. There’s a body on the ground and it deserves the process. What’s worst is that I’m not sure that we would have gotten Byrd’s name had the family not sued for it. This interview was probably deemed the more acceptable way to release Byrd’s identity than a hearing outcome.
Somehow, my gut tells me, that the combined mass of people violently breaching the next layer of capital defenses was more than 300 pounds.
First, I have worked in a crowd-control team facing rioters, and while I had no doubt there were people in the crowds who wanted to harm us, regardless of the the fact that they were unarmed, we used the less-lethal force options at our disposal (riot shields, 36″ riot batons, tear gas) and the crowd control tactics we had learned, to move and disperse the rioters without using deadly force. For me, the January 6th riot seems to be a colossal failure to anticipate and plan for events which were, at the very least foreseeable, and according to some reports, fully expected to occur. With all the demonstrations and protests that occur in DC, I would expect every law enforcement agency in the area to be well-trained in crowd control, and well-equipped to deal with rioters, with comprehensive plans in place. It remains to be seen what less-lethal force options were available to Capitol Police officers inside the building, but the fact remains that the officer in question was photographed while poised with gun drawn and finger on the trigger, apparently well before the nature of the threat from the rioters was known to any degree of certainty. If rioters had violently fought their way through a variety of defenses including less-lethal force options effectively deployed against them, it would be easier to conclude that a serious threat was posed. But since the rioters gained entry with relatively minimal resistance, no deployment of less-lethal force, and in some cases it seems were even invited into sensitive areas, the “lethal threat” conclusion seems strained. But, if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Second, my own personal standard for use of deadly force against an unarmed person would be to reserve it for the gravest extreme, if I were about to be overpowered by one or more assailants and knocked to the ground and beaten or restrained, or being rendered unconscious. An officer I worked with was attacked in a public place -while off duty- by three thugs who beat him nearly senseless with their bare hands, and when one of them started choking him into unconsciousness he managed to draw his concealed handgun and shoot the choker five times. (The others fled.) He had no doubt that their intent was to kill him, although none of them were armed. No one that I knew questioned his decision to shoot, but he always second-guessed his actions, not because of the guy he shot (who did not die but went to prison for 25 years) but the fact that two of his rounds passed through the assailant and could have -but luckily did not- strike some uninvolved bystander.
Third, as a practical matter, police frequently encounter unarmed people who fight fiercely but are nevertheless not shot, because their assaults do not cross into the “imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury” territory. In my early days as an officer I had to fight numerous people, drunk and otherwise, who forcibly resisted arrest, but I knew that merely “getting my ass kicked” was not justification for using deadly force. We were trained in “empty hands” defense and issued batons and chemical weapons and trained in their use, as well as having partners (sometimes) or backup units (usually) available. I had to fight my way “out of a hole” numerous times before gaining the upper hand or getting assistance, but thanks to good training, hard-earned upper body strength and dumb luck I was never seriously injured, beyond needing a few stitches here and there.
Given that the conventional rule is “never fire a warning shot”, what’s your opinion as to whether this sort of situation is a possible exception to that? No one was an immediate threat, and a shot to the baseboard might have brought things to a halt, without risking a dangerous delay of further action, if necessary.
(That pic where Byrd has his finger on the trigger also shows him sweeping his colleagues with the muzzle…makes you wonder about his “training” he cited.)
Yes, that pic made me wonder as well. Concerning warning shots, it is true that most agencies have prohibited them for decades, for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean that they are never fired -and excused- in rare instances. For much of my career, I worked in rural areas, and a shot fired carefully into the ground was employed, once in a great while, to good effect in controlling a situation. I will state unequivocally that I never was in a situation where I felt a warning shot was both necessary and safe, so I never fired one, but I worked with a few officers who had done so. A one-term sheriff I worked for (a retired federal officer, no less) changed our agency policy to discouraging warning shots “unless it was safe to do so,” which was way too loose for my liking. The next sheriff reinstated the warning shot prohibition.
And, Willem, to directly answer your central question, in facing an unarmed but menacing crowd, with no other equipment options, I and most street cops I have worked with would have fired a warning shot “into the baseboard” as you suggest before shooting unarmed individuals who had not yet personally assaulted anyone. I really don’t know what the USCPD’s policy or training required or allowed.
The ethical justification of Byrd’s shooting of Ashli Babbitt (a lone barrier between a crazed mob and Congress – as no one has reasonably shown that Byrd should have known Congress was evacuated) has been used to justify the shooting of people at a prayer meeting, to justify almost 80 well organized soldiers gunning down a mostly dispersed protest, and to shooting an unarmed woman completely by herself.
I’m not sure why we’re pretending that the entire mob doesn’t present a threat.
This is why an entire summer of riots should not have been tolerated, because it makes rioters feel safe…when they should not be made to feel safe. Ever.
Nor should criminal avoiding arrest, of course. Or unarmed perps threatening police.
I don’t know why you keep pivoting to extreme analogies that you say are being used to “justify” shootings there. You’re usually more careful that that. A mostly dispersed riot can still be deadly. The Kent State Guardsmen were NOT “well organized” or well trained—that was part of the problem. A better example would be the Boston Massacre—and that situation would have definitely resulted in a guilty verdict today. If Byrd could have used deadly force, 50 of the police could have used deadly force. There goes the Universality Principle, and the shooting already fails Kant’s Categorical Imperative: using a human being as a means to an end.
Look, if we want a standard that permits a shooting like this, fine. I can defend it as utilitarian. But we don’t have that standard, so the shooting can’t be defended.
I’m not the one pivoting to extreme examples. I’ve demonstrated that Byrd’s actions are reasonable…several of you all have decided that a rebuttal to this conclusion is to cite really extreme non-analogies as “oh ok, then this was justified…as was this”. My comment was an expression of exasperation of these intentionally gross comparisons.
No, during any protest becomes riot becomes riot with potentially deadly consequences, there are unique conditions to be considered. And NO, just because Byrd behaved reasonably in his tiny little microcosm of the riot would not have guaranteed that any of the other officers would have been justified leading up to that point. That’s an *abuse* of Kant by pretending the unique circumstances facing Byrd were universally present to the other officers. They weren’t. But that’s the nature of a riot and that’s the nature of the risks assumed by rioters.
When we don’t have a standard, we create one. And we’re facing a situation where riots are endemic now and large in scale, not sporadic and localized as in the past. A civil society cannot function if downtowns are perennial loot and vandal-fests. Order must be restored in a manner which discourages further disorder on that scale.
“…as no one has reasonably shown that Byrd should have known Congress was evacuated…”
Didn’t Byrd, at some point, claim he had helped evacuate members?
But leaving that aside, the lack of being able to know much of what happened is part of the problem, isn’t it? There’s still a very limited amount that has been released to the public from thousands of hours of security video, and as far as I know, no transcripts of either Byrd investigation. “Security concerns” has been cited, but that seems a weak argument considering we know what the interior looks like, and the systems are supposedly being revamped, anyway.
It’s not surprising that this would generate all sorts of speculation. It’s not even conspiracy-level, to imagine that the reason could well be that a lot of visual evidence doesn’t support the official narrative.