WASHINGTON — The fatal shooting of U.S. Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt provided a macabre background Tuesday for testimony during the trial of a man accused of assaulting police inside the U.S. Capitol’s Hall of Columns.
Babbitt, an avid supporter of former President Donald Trump who traveled alone to D.C. on Jan. 6, was shot by U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd while she was attempting to climb through a shattered window into the Speaker’s Lobby. She was then moved near an exit at the south side of the building at the end of the Hall of Columns, where an unknown officer can be seen administering chest compressions when DC Police Sgt. James Koenig first entered the building.
Koenig was called as a witness Tuesday in the bench trial of Daniel Dean Egtvedt, a Maryland man accused of assaulting USCP and DC Police officers on Jan. 6. Prosecutors played clips from Koenig’s bodyworn camera footage showing his entrance into the building with other members of a civil disturbance unit. For the first several minutes of video inside the building, the efforts first responders took to save Babbitt were clearly visible in the background. She was eventually transported out of the Capitol altogether and to a nearby hospital, and the area where personnel were providing aid was taped off and treated as a piece of the crime scene. Koenig testified part of his squad’s job was to keep that scene secure.
It was just feet away from the yellow caution tape where Egtvedt, who entered the building during the second breach of the Senate Wing doors, had a disputed confrontation with police at the center of the charges against him. His attorneys argue he was carried into the building by other protestors after being improperly pepper sprayed in the face by an unknown officer. Kira Anne West, one of his attorneys, has suggested it was police who continued using unwarranted force against Egtvedt and not the other way around. During cross-examination, West pressed Koenig, who was supervising a squad of officers on Jan. 6, about whether any of his subordinates reported being attacked by Egtvedt – particularly DC Police Officer Michael DeCruz, who Egtvedt is accused of assaulting
“Officer DeCruz never said he was assaulted?” West asked. “He never said [Egtvedt] was angry at him? He never said he tried to injure him? What he said was he fell, isn’t that right?”
Koenig agreed with West’s assessment, and said he never filed any reports alleging Egtvedt had injured any of his officers.
“You never thought this guy needed to be arrested?” West also asked Koenig. “You never got your handcuffs out?”
Koenig acknowledged neither he nor his officers attempted to place Egtvedt in custody, but said it would have been impractical to try to do so based on the thousands of unauthorized people on Capitol grounds that day.
Prosecutors said DeCruz would likely be called as a witness on Wednesday. Egtvedt is also accused of assaulting U.S. Capitol Police Officer Melissa Marshall, who, according to the original affidavit against him, recalled Egtvedt “rushed at her while he screamed at her to shoot him on three occasions.” Footage from the altercation released to WUSA9 does capture Egtvedt screaming at officers to shoot him, but his attorneys assert it was Marshall who initiated what became a multi-person scuffle.
The fight ended with Egtvedt on the floor, just feet away from where Babbitt had been lying, after falling and striking his head against a marble column. Due to limited availability, the defense was allowed to call USCP Officer Connor Rhodes out of order Tuesday afternoon to testify about his efforts to pick Egtvedt up off the ground and get him out of the building.
Rhodes, who is assigned to the department’s first responder unit, said he didn’t see Egtvedt’s head hit the column. He recalled Egtvedt “screaming in my face” as he and another officer attempted to get him off the floor. Defense co-counsel Nicole Ann Cubbage repeatedly pressed Rhodes on whether he offered medical aid to Egtvedt. Rhodes said Egtvedt never asked for medica aid, although acknowledged after seeing the recording that Egtvedt did scream, “For god’s sake, get me some help!” after he’d been removed from the building. The government alleges Egtvedt’s screaming at police had become nearly incoherent at that point – something Rhodes affirmed.
“I realized he was a bit outside of his mind when he started yelling and telling us to shoot him,” Rhodes said.
In addition to DeCruz, whose shoulder prosecutors have alleged was injured in the scuffle, several other DC Police officers were expected to be called as witnesses Wednesday, along with two FBI agents. Another witness was expected to be asked to testify later in the week about statements Egtvedt made after his arrest about his intent to “fight” police if they attempted to transfer him to a D.C. jail. Prosecutors have argued the statements prove Egtvedt’s belligerence and willingness to fight police. Egtvedt’s defense attorneys fought unsuccessfully to exclude them from trial, arguing they had no bearing on his actions on Jan. 6.
Egtvedt faces nine charges, including two felony counts of assaulting, resisting or impeding police and one felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding.
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