Speaking on Fox News on July 11, former President Donald Trump raised questions about the Capitol Police lieutenant who killed Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran whose support for Trump led her to raid the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Babbitt was shot during the attack and died at a hospital shortly afterward. Trump said he had heard that the police officer “was the head of security for a certain high official — a Democrat.”
Trump’s comments represent a high-profile crossover of conspiracy theories that have been simmering online for months. Almost immediately after the insurrection at the Capitol, QAnon followers, far-right groups and Trump supporters began to hypothesize online about the shooting. In one far-right group with more than 31,000 subscribers on the chat app Telegram, a video of Babbitt’s shooting was posted on Jan. 7 with text claiming the officer who shot her was part of then-Vice President Mike Pence’s personal security detail.
Over the next few months, multiple baseless conspiracy theories emerged. Many QAnon followers, for example, believe that Babbitt is not actually dead but was in fact a “crisis actor” paid to fake her own death. In the days after the Justice Department announced it was not pressing charges, QAnon followers on Telegram made comments such as “[They’re] not going to charge anybody because she’s really not dead it was a staged episode,” and “Can’t charge [someone] for a crime that didn’t happen.”