Ashli Babbitt did not hide her far-right political views. Outside her San Diego bungalow, located blocks from the beach, she flew both an American flag and a QAnon flag emblazoned with a giant Q and the acronym WWG1WGA, for “Where we go one, we go all.” She plastered her SUV with pro-Trump bumper stickers and a Blue Lives Matter flag. On the door of the local pool-servicing company that she ran with her husband, uncle, and brother, a poster declared it to be a “mask free autonomous zone, better known as America” and added, “If you need to wear a mask outside, I’m not sure we can help you.”
Even so, people close to Babbitt said they had no idea how devoted she was to Donald Trump and his movement until they saw her with a mob inside the U.S. Capitol. Wearing a Trump flag over her shoulders, Babbitt made it as far as a cloakroom just off the House floor when she climbed through a window and was shot by a Capitol police officer on the other side. Babbitt, 35, later died of her injuries. Now her family members are trying to reconcile their own image of the feisty but private woman they knew with the one who stormed Congress as part of a violent mob that called for the killing of lawmakers.
“I actually saw it first on video when I was on the phone with multiple hospitals trying to find her,” said Kayla Joyce, 29, who said she is the mutual live-in girlfriend of Babbitt and her husband, Aaron. “We found out through the news. Through live television.”
“I thought she was just going to a rally. And I think that was all it was, until it wasn’t,” said Joyce, who has known the couple for about a year. “It was extremely unlike her to put herself in that position.” Aaron Babbitt did not respond to requests for comment.
Babbitt was one of thousands who flocked to Washington, D.C., to support Trump in his ongoing effort to dispute the results of the 2020 election he lost. Speaking on the morning of January 6, Trump called on his supporters to protest what he falsely claimed was a theft of the election by Congress, pushing them to “fight like hell,” then head to the Capitol.
“I blame Trump. How could you not? I mean he is their figure, their president,” Joyce said. “Why else would they do that unless their leader tells them to do that?”
Joyce pleaded that the image of Babbitt being presented online and in the press wasn’t the real her: “She wasn’t a terrorist. She wouldn’t have put herself in harm’s way for any bad reason. If I could get into her head and pick her brain, I would.” Joyce added that Babbitt’s death shouldn’t be celebrated by anyone. “It shouldn’t be construed that because she had an opinion that she deserved it. It’s just gross what they are saying.”
Joyce has spent recent days speaking to the FBI, making her and Aaron’s social-media accounts private, and dodging an endless barrage of reporters at their door. They await the return of her ashes and are planning a small memorial. There will be no headstone. “I don’t want this attention. We don’t want this. She wouldn’t have wanted this,” said Joyce. “We were very local, private people. We barely even leave our community.”
Tiny in stature, Babbitt wasn’t shy about voicing her strong opinions, according to friends and neighbors. The Air Force veteran would hold court at barbecues for hours about the state of the country, but she often segued into conspiracy-theory-tinged rants that people couldn’t comprehend. “You just had a hard time even following what she was saying,” said one neighbor, who requested anonymity because of a fear of online backlash. [Continue reading…]