With the release of unseen footage from January 6th – a lot of renewed discussion has been occurring over the Officer-Involved-Shooting (OIS) of Ashli Babbitt.
Just a question to start – about Fox News host Tucker Carlson pissing off everyone from Stephen Colbert to Mitch McConnell. Is it because: 1) he is making the footage public or 2) his opinion on the footage?
Is it the transparency or the free speech? Just want to know why people are so upset.
The January 6th Commission only showed the criminal behavior – which there is a lot of. Tucker Carlson only showed the peaceful stuff – which there is a lot of. I care about transparency. I want to see as much footage as possible. I do not care about either biased narrative.
I am not suggesting that the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt by U.S. Capital Police Officer Byrd on January 6th was unlawful, or even against the department use of force policy, or even in contrast to his training. I am merely suggesting that we apply this same logic and standard to all OIS incidents. Since we live in the same country – police and citizens should be able to expect a consistent disposition after an OIS.
The personal politics of the deceased should have zero effect on the whether or not an OIS was lawful.
The “Babbitt Standard”
At the time of the OIS, Ms. Babbitt was an unarmed, 120 lb female, and was not actively attacking anyone. She was shot in the neck and killed – while committing the very serious illegal act of “trespassing”. There were no protests, no riots, no lawsuits, no prosecutions, no questions. Blind trust in police to investigate themselves.
If that was good enough for the Babbitt case – then it should be good enough for actual violent maniacs who are actively attacking police when they are shot.
We should start by exonerating (and immediately freeing) former Huntsville, Alabama Officer Ben Darby who was involved in an objectively reasonable OIS with a man who was armed with a gun – refused to drop it – and moved the weapon towards police.
As well as dropping the charges against former Grand Rapids, Michigan Officer Christopher Schurr – who shot and killed a violent felon that had gained control of his Taser while resisting a lawful arrest.
Both of these officers were in real and immediate danger and were punished for following their training and defending their own lives. Darby has been convicted and is rotting in prison (pending appeal). Schurr is facing second degree murder charges and will go to trial later this year.
Officer Byrd shot and killed Ms. Babbitt because he was afraid of what she “might do”. Whereas, Officers Darby and Schurr used deadly force to stop what was actually occurring in the moment.
This is the difference between an immediate and imminent threat. Officers Darby and Schurr faced an immediate threat – a threat occurring in the moment. Officer Byrd perceived an imminent threat – something bad that could play out in the near future.
In a world where politics is absent from the investigation of an OIS – the more immediate the threat presented to police officers – the more likely an OIS will be considered justified.
There is a difference between an officer who says,
“I was afraid he was going to shoot me because he started to move the gun in my direction – so I fired my weapon.” (immediate)
“I was afraid of what she might do in the future – so I fired my weapon.” (imminent)
There is a group of anti-police activists that condemn every police shooting – even ones that are obviously reasonable and lawful (think Ma’Khia Bryant).
There are those who claim that the officers who killed Breonna Taylor had no lawful reason to fire their weapons – even though they had been fired upon first and Sgt. Mattingly sustained a nearly fatal gunshot wound. So, where are they on the Babbitt case? If police officers cannot return fire – while they are being shot at – how can they shoot an unarmed woman who was not attacking anyone?
They are suspiciously uncurious about the Babbitt case. Ben Crump is not demanding the body camera footage and personnel file of the involved officer. There are not hoards of maniacs burning down local businesses. No “autonomous zone” has been established at the scene of the incident.
The mental gymnastics required to be an active member in the anti-police activist camp is dizzying.
I find it ironic when anti-police activists defend the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt. They say things like, “She should have just complied” and “She should not have been protesting”.
Now, why can’t they make that exact same argument for people who are actively attacking and/or threatening police with a gun?
Is it too much to expect that people be intellectually consistent?
Unfortunately, the personal politics and identity group of the deceased are often more important than the danger faced by the involved officer.
This article originally appeared at Police Law News Substack.