WASHINGTON (AP) — The family of a woman who was fatally shot by a police officer during the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government. The family alleges wrongful death, assault, and negligence.
Ashli Babbitt, 35, of California, was part of a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of President Biden’s election victory. Babbitt was shot by a U.S. Capitol Police officer as she tried to enter the building through a broken glass door.
The lawsuit, seeking $30 million in damages, was filed by Babbitt’s husband Aaron Babbitt, who is also the executor of her estate. The family is represented by lawyers from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. The suit was filed in a U.S. District Court in California on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the insurrection.
According to the lawsuit, Babbitt did not participate in any unlawful or nefarious activities during the riot. She was exercising her “God-given, American liberties and freedoms,” the suit states.
The lawsuit alleges that the officer who shot Babbitt, Lt. Michael Byrd, used excessive force. Judicial Watch’s president, Tom Fitton, called Babbitt’s death a “scandal” and said the lawsuit seeks justice and government accountability.
Federal prosecutors have previously concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Babbitt’s civil rights were violated. They stated that it was reasonable for Officer Byrd to believe that he was firing in self-defense or in defense of others.
An investigation by the Capitol Police also cleared Officer Byrd of any wrongdoing, stating that his actions were within policy. The department allows the use of deadly force when an officer reasonably believes they are protecting themselves or others from serious physical harm.
Capitol Police spokespeople and Officer Byrd’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Babbitt was one of five individuals who died as a result of the riot. The shooting of Babbitt was captured in graphic videos that spread widely. Despite offering condolences to the family for the “tragic loss of life,” federal prosecutors determined that the shooting was justified.
Babbitt’s death has become a rallying point for members of the far right, who view her as a martyr. The incident has inspired vigils, rallies, and social media campaigns.