SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The woman shot dead by police during Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol was identified by police as Ashli Babbitt, a U.S. Air Force veteran whose social media activity indicates she embraced far-fetched right-wing conspiracy theories.
Babbitt, 35, was an ardent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, and her posts on Twitter endorsed Trump’s false assertions that he was defeated because Democrats elaborately rigged the Nov. 3 election.
The Twitter account @Ashli_Babbitt, which includes photographs of her, shared many posts in recent weeks flagging her excitement over attending the Trump rally in Washington on Jan. 6.
The day before, she wrote: “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!”
Babbitt lashed out at government-enforced COVID-19 restrictions on her Twitter page. At the pool cleaning service that public records indicate she ran with her husband in Spring Valley, California, a sign was pasted to the door on Thursday, reading: ‘MASK FREE AUTONOMOUS ZONE BETTER KNOWN AS AMERICA ... tyranny, lawlessness, disrespect and hate for your fellow man will not be tolerated.’
There was also a picture of California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, with a slash through it.
Ashli Babbitt had traveled to Washington with friends to join Wednesday’s rally, her husband, Aaron, told Fox 5 News in San Diego. He said he sent her a text message checking her status about 30 minutes before the shooting but never heard back.
At the rally near the White House, Trump gave an incendiary speech filled with falsehoods for more than an hour that ended with exhortations to his supporters to march on the Capitol. Shortly after, some of them began smashing their way in while Congress met to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Videos of the shooting recorded by people at the scene show a woman draped in a Trump flag clambering up a doorway with smashed glass windows in a chaotic confrontation between the Trump-supporting intruders and police in an ornate hallway in the Capitol.
A Capitol Police officer on the other side of the doorway then fires his handgun, and the woman - whose appearance matches that of Babbitt’s photos - falls backwards onto the ground, bleeding profusely and visibly in shock. People around her scream and try to tend to her injuries.
The U.S. Capitol Police confirmed in a statement on Thursday that a woman identified as Ashli Babbitt had been shot by an officer as protesters were forcing their way into the House Chamber. They said she later died of her injuries in a hospital.
Three other people — two men and a woman — who were on the Capitol grounds died as a result of unspecified “medical emergencies,” Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department said.
“She loved her country and she was doing what she thought was right to support her country, joining up with like-minded people that also love their president and their country,” her husband told Fox 5 News. “She was voicing her opinion and she got killed for it.”
Babbitt served in the U.S. Air Force as a senior airman while on active duty from 2004 to 2008, the Air Force said in a statement. She also served in the Air Force Reserve between 2008 and 2010, and in the Air National Guard from 2010 until 2016, the statement said.
She served in the military with her ex-husband, Timothy McEntee, and did at least one tour in Iraq, Sean McEntee, her former brother-in-law, said in a telephone interview, adding he felt “shock and sadness” at the news of her death.
Babbitt posted a picture of herself on Twitter at a Trump boat rally in September, smiling with another person, both of them wearing tops bearing the slogans and imagery of QAnon, a sprawling cult-like conspiracy theory that has been embraced by some Trump supporters.
QAnon adherents believe claims by one or more unidentified people posting on Internet messageboards under the name ‘Q’ who say that Trump is secretly fighting a cabal of child-sex predators that includes powerful U.S. elites.
She also took to Twitter to express enthusiasm for guns and the U.S.-Mexico border wall that Trump vowed to build, saying in a video posted in 2018 that she was concerned migrants were bringing drugs over the border “in droves.”
Robin Babbitt, who identified herself as Ashli Babbitt’s mother-in-law on Twitter on Thursday, wrote: “Can’t stop crying. ... She was such a wonderful kind person, and a serious military woman. Strong, Smart, Kind.”
The officer who killed Babbitt, whose identity has not been released, is on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, the Capitol Police said in a statement.
Reporting by Dan Trotta in San Diego, Gabriella Borter in Fairfield, Connecticut, and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Idrees Ali and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien
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