Decision Whether to Charge Capitol Police Officer in Shooting of Ashli Babbitt Is In

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The decision of whether to charge the Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt during the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 is in.

Perhaps there was never any question what the result would be.

The Justice Department has announced that the officer will not face criminal charges.

Officials examined video footage posted on social media, statements from the officer involved and other officers and witnesses to the events, physical evidence from the scene of the shooting, and the results of an autopsy. Based on that investigation, officials determined that there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution. Officials from IAD informed a representative of Ms. Babbitt’s family today of this determination.

Now, I have a lot of questions here.

Generally, in such cases of a police shooting, there’s a public inquest, with readily available information. But not in this case.

Here, we’re told she died from being shot in the shoulder. I’d like to know more about how that resulted in her death since being shot in the shoulder doesn’t normally result in death. Did she bleed to death? We don’t know.

Why did the officer believe he had to use deadly force against Babbitt when the police outside of the doors next to Babbitt did not?

We have a determination here that there was insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.

Why has none of the information regarding the matter actually been released to the public?

Even more than that, why has the officer’s name never been announced? This is unheard of in such a case, not to mention the general overall lack of transparency in the matter.

Apparently, the answer is that Capitol Police are a law unto themselves and the media doesn’t care enough to provide that information to you or try to get it.

One might try to make an argument that it could endanger the officer. But frankly, you can make that argument in any case and the public still does have a right to know. Especially in this kind of a case with such high visibility.

Here’s what the DOJ said about the determination:

The focus of the criminal investigation was to determine whether federal prosecutors could prove that the officer violated any federal laws, concentrating on the possible application of 18 U.S.C. § 242, a federal criminal civil rights statute. In order to establish a violation of this statute, prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer acted willfully to deprive Ms. Babbitt of a right protected by the Constitution or other law, here the Fourth Amendment right not to be subjected to an unreasonable seizure. Prosecutors would have to prove not only that the officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that the officer did so “willfully,” which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean that the officer acted with a bad purpose to disregard the law. As this requirement has been interpreted by the courts, evidence that an officer acted out of fear, mistake, panic, misperception, negligence, or even poor judgment cannot establish the high level of intent required under Section 242.

The investigation revealed no evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer willfully committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242. Specifically, the investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber. Acknowledging the tragic loss of life and offering condolences to Ms. Babbitt’s family, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Department of Justice have therefore closed the investigation into this matter.

What that means is even if the officer acted out of fear, mistake, or misperception, if the DOJ doesn’t think he had a “bad purpose to disregard the law,” they’re not going to go ahead and charge him.

Translation: no charges and we’re never officially ever going to hear his name.