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January 8, 2021

Her Name Was Ashli Babbitt

There are plenty of questions surrounding the death of an unarmed Trump supporter in the Capitol building.

Judging from the crowd, and from the Washington Monument in the background, the picture was taken while she was on her way from The Ellipse to the Capitol. She’s wearing a gray stocking cap from a brewery in her native San Diego, and she’s got a large Donald Trump flag tied cape-like around her neck. Having just heard the president speak, she looks happy, energized, and among friends.

Her name is Ashli Babbitt, and in an hour or so she’ll be dead.

As the Washington Examiner’s Michael Lee reports, “One video shows people at the doors of the Speaker’s Lobby attempting to break in, smashing windows, and trying to push through the barricade of tables and chairs. One person, now identified as Babbitt, attempts to climb through the broken window when a shot rings out, and Babbitt falls to the ground. Others around her begin to yell for help. Washington, D.C., Police Chief Robert Contee said that Babbitt was shot by the U.S. Capitol Police.”

Ashli Elizabeth Babbitt was by all accounts a patriot. She loved her country deeply — enough to have served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, including four tours in Afghanistan. Babbitt’s ex-husband, Timothy McEntee, said she was “a wonderful woman with a big heart and a strong mind.” They served in the Air Force together and were married for 14 years before divorcing in 2019.

“I am in a state of shock and feel absolutely terrible for her family,” McEntee said. “She loved America with all her heart. It’s truly a sad day.”

Babbitt, 35, was also a strong supporter of President Trump. She had strong opinions, and she wasn’t afraid to share them. This included a profanity-laced 2018 rant against California’s political class. She had thousands of Twitter followers, and she retweeted everyone from QAnon conspiracy theorists to Edward Snowden to Rand Paul to Mike Pompeo. On Tuesday, her last full day of life, she tweeted, “Nothing will stop us…. they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours….dark to light.”

She also posted a last brief video while on the way to the Capitol.

No one knows what she was thinking there at that broken window, presumably staring directly at an officer’s loaded weapon, but our Mark Alexander, who’s a former law enforcement officer, notes, “The justification standard for of the use of deadly force is imminent danger of death or injury to the officer or others. It can be argued that the officer assumed that standard was met, but the shooting of Ashli Babbitt should be subject to close scrutiny.”

Compare the death of Babbitt, for example, to that of Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter martyr who was killed when, one night last March, Louisville police officers announced themselves before entering her apartment, whereupon her boyfriend opened fire on them, shooting the first officer who came through the door. When the officers returned fire, they accidentally shot and killed Taylor, who was standing in the hallway next to her boyfriend.

For the killing of Taylor, whom recorded phone conversations indicate was the money handler for her former boyfriend’s lucrative drug operation, the city of Louisville awarded her family $12 million. In light of this, what kind of settlement might the federal government, which oversees the Capitol Police, offer the family of Ashli Babbitt?

And how will she be remembered? Is she merely a statistic, or is she something more? Was she a reckless pro-Trump zealot, or the tragic and senseless victim of a nervous cop? Will she soon be forgotten, or will she one day be seen by like-minded Americans as the first casualty in our nation’s Second Civil War? These are difficult, disturbing questions, but perhaps they’re worth wrestling with. One thing is certain, though: When we read the vile comments about her death by those who don’t share her political views, we see that something is very sick within our nation’s body politic.

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, an American woman was killed while taking part in a political protest that became a riot. She was unarmed, and at this point it’s unclear why a Capitol Police lieutenant felt it necessary to use deadly force.

Her name was Ashli Babbitt.

Post script: One other woman and two men also died during Wednesday’s events due to “medical emergencies.” Those deaths are being investigated. And late last night, Capitol Police reported the death of one of their own. “At approximately 9:30 p.m. this evening (January 7, 2021), United States Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick passed away due to injuries sustained while on-duty,” having returned to his division, collapsing, and then dying at a local hospital.

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