Today the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia announced that they will not file charges against the Capitol Police officer that murdered Ashli Babbitt on January 6th during a mostly peaceful protest inside the Capitol Building. The USAO appears to justify their decision entirely on what they say was the officer's state of mind at the moment he pulled the trigger while ignoring how he created a situation in which Babbitt had no warning of her impeding doom.
Before we explain why we are siding with Babbitt supporters on this issue, we are going to explain what is not relevant to our analysis. We do not consider any of the following things relevant to this inquiry:
1. That the crowd was supporting Donald Trump.
2. That the crowd wished to overthrow the government.
3. That there were white supremacists among the crowd.
4. That Black Lives Matter would have been treated much worse.
For the purpose of our analysis we are going to assume that all of those things are true, but ultimately irrelevant. The following things are relevant:
1. The officer hid behind a barricade where he was not likely visible to Babbitt when she entered the window.
2. The officer cannot be heard giving any warning that someone in Babbitt's position could have heard.
3. The Capitol Police had been so soft on the protesters up until that point that no reasonable person in their shoes would have been on notice of any threat to their lives from the police.
In the video below you can clearly see that there was a barricade and a crowd of people between Babbitt and the shooter. We do not believe that Babbitt saw the shooter before she entered the window. The crowd was making noise and we could not hear the shooter say anything, so we do not believe that Babbiit heard anything that would have put her on notice that deadly force would be used. The Capitol Police had allowed the protesters to walk around the building unopposed and in some cases welcomed them with open arms. That behavior likely lulled Babbitt into a false sense of security. Meanwhile one officer was waiting behind a corner ready to ambush the first person that entered the area.
The USAO seems stuck on what was in the officer's head at the exact time the trigger was pulled and does not appear to consider how the officer's actions contributed to his state of mind. He should have made his presence known in front of the window where anyone capable of entering could see him and he should have warned everyone that if anyone breached the barricade they would be shot. This officer did not do that. He hid behind a corner. He was setting people up to be ambushed from a blind spot rather than simply deterring them. That is why this shooting was unjustified.
If Babbitt were black and it had been a Black Lives Matter protest we would have reached the same conclusion. It is amazing how good the media is at blinding people from the truth with smoke screens that although relevant to broad societal issues are ultimately irrelevant when analyzing a police shooting. Smoke screens like saying that way more black people have been wrongfully shot by police, so Babbitt supporters have no right to complain, or that had the crowd been black way more would have been killed. Those issues address inequality in society and even though those are important issues, raising them in this context does little more than stop people from looking further before forming conclusions. Just because something could have been worse does not deprive people of the right to criticize things for not being better. One cannot justify mistreating a person simply by providing examples of other people that were treated worse. It just demonstrates that mistreatment is more widespread. Whenever there is opportunity for improvement people have a right to advocate for improvement.
In this case, the Capitol Police lulled a crowd of mostly peaceful protesters into a false sense of security that would make any reasonable person in Babbitt's shoes think that she would be able to breach the barrier without injury. Being in reasonable fear at the exact moment of the shooting is not an excuse when that fear is the result of their own choice.