The rioter who was fatally shot by a Capitol police officer during a far-right invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday has been identified as Ashli Babbitt, a former U.S. Air Force member from California who backed several radical conspiracy theories supporting U.S. President Donald Trump.
Babbitt, 35, was part of the extremist mob that stormed the Capitol in an effort to overturn the democratic election results on Wednesday, following encouragement from Trump himself. Babbitt was shot during the riot, the U.S. Capitol Police confirmed on Thursday.
The riot broke out in Washington, D.C. after Trump egged on thousands of his supporters with the false claim that he “won” an election he lost. Trump used Twitter to summon his supporters for the event, then urged them to “stop the steal” while Congress was certifying Joe Biden‘s victory at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Videos circulating from the ensuing riot show the moment when Babbitt was fatally injured inside the Capitol building.
Babbitt was among a crowd of Trump supporters who tried to break through a set of doors inside the Capitol, the videos show. The doors had been barricaded with furniture and security forces were on the other side, guns drawn. Windows in the doors had been smashed.
Babbitt was trying to climb through a window in one door when a Capitol police officer fired a single shot at her from the other side, videos show. She appeared to sustain a neck or mouth wound from the shot.
Babbitt fell back and was immediately surrounded by other pro-Trump rioters. “Shots fired!” one of them shouted. “They shot a girl!” another said.
A police tactical squad showed up a few seconds after Babbitt went down. She was rushed out of the Capitol and taken to hospital, where she died later on Wednesday.
Family members confirmed that she was killed in various statements to news outlets on Wednesday evening.
They say Babbitt was a 14-year Air Force veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She was later deployed with the National Guard to Kuwait and Qatar, her ex-husband Timothy McEntee told the Washington Post.
“I feel absolutely terrible and sick to my stomach about it,” McEntee told the Post. “She was never afraid to speak her mind and in a way, this was her way of speaking her mind.”
Her current husband, Aaron Babbitt, told Fox News that she sent him a text message 30 minutes before the shooting.
“She loved her country and she was doing what she thought was right to support her country, joining up with like-minded people that also love their president and their country,” he said.
Babbitt’s brother-in-law, Justin Jackson, confirmed her death in a separate statement to NBC 7.
“Ashli was both loyal and extremely passionate about what she believed in. She loved this country and felt honoured to have served in our Armed Forces. Please keep her family in your thoughts and respect their privacy during this time.”
Babbitt was also an ardent supporter of President Trump, and bought into the false narrative that he lost to Joe Biden because of election fraud.
She had left her current husband behind in California and travelled to D.C. to be part of Trump’s rally, her mother-in-law told Fox 5.
“I really don’t know why she decided to do this,” she said.
Social media posts show that Babbitt was a believer in QAnon, the fantastical conspiracy theory that imagines Trump as a warrior for God against a cabal of cannibalistic, deep-state pedophiles in Hollywood and the Democratic Party. The FBI labelled QAnon a domestic terror threat in 2019.
Photos posted on her social media pages show her wearing QAnon gear and posing with others in similar attire. She also frequently tweeted hashtags related to the movement.
Video captured from her Twitter account by the New York Post shows her railing against COVID-19 lockdowns and various Democrats.
Her last tweet also contained a reference to “the storm,” a QAnon belief that a violent reckoning would lead to the overthrow of the U.S. government, and a vindication of their fantastical worldview.
“Nothing will stop us,” she tweeted on Tuesday, in a message that Twitter later removed. “They can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon D.C. in less than 24 hours … dark to light!”
She also retweeted many messages from Lin Wood, the pro-Trump lawyer who has argued several claims of voter fraud in court. All of those claims fell flat, and no systemic voter fraud allegations have been proven in court.
The far-right QAnon community has since begun churning out new conspiracy theories about Babbitt, NBC News reports. Some have hailed her as a martyr, while others have suggested that she was a “false flag” meant to make the movement look bad — a common and baseless claim that has emerged from similar incidents in the past. Still, others have co-opted language from the Black Lives Matter movement, echoing the words “Say her name” on social media.
Meanwhile, critics blasted her as a veteran who had been “radicalized” by President Trump’s falsehoods.
Trump has repeatedly claimed ignorance of the QAnon movement while retweeting and embracing some of its radical theories, including baseless allegations of voter fraud involving voting machines.
Trump lost the presidential election to Joe Biden by a greater margin than his victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The officer who shot Babbitt has been placed on leave pending an investigation, according to Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.
Sund defended the actions of his officers after Wednesday’s incident. He said the attack was “unlike anything I have experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement,” and described his officers’ efforts as “heroic.”
He also explained that Babbitt was part of a group that was trying to force its way into an area where members of Congress were taking shelter from the mob.
Three others died due to “individual medical emergencies” during the riot, police said late Wednesday. Their identities and causes of death have not been made public.
More than 50 people were arrested and 14 police officers were injured.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said Trump is ultimately responsible for what happened on Wednesday.
“We saw an unprecedented attack on our American democracy incited by the United States president,” she said.
“He must be held accountable. His constant and divisive rhetoric led to the abhorrent actions we saw today.”