A woman who tried to breach a White House checkpoint led police on a car chase through Washington that ended when she was shot to death by police near the U.S. Capitol, prompting a lockdown of the legislative complex.
The driver was pronounced dead after yesterday’s incident, according to Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who declined to release any further information about the woman, including her name and whether she was armed.
The black Infiniti automobile involved in the incident is registered to Miriam Carey of Stamford, Connecticut, according to a law enforcement official who asked to not be identified to discuss an open investigation. Carey, 34, is believed by authorities to have been the driver, the official said.
“This appears to be an isolated, singular matter with, at this point, no nexus to terrorism,” U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said last night at a news briefing. A one-year-old girl was found unharmed in the car and taken to a local hospital for observation, according to a Washington police statement.
As the Capitol was locked down, the Senate and House of Representatives recessed amid reports of gunfire outside. The incident began about 2:12 p.m., Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said, when the woman tried to ram through an outer barricade on the White House grounds, less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) away.
Uniformed Secret Service officers blocked the car at the White House, and a chase ensued as the suspect drove through downtown streets toward the Capitol, Lanier said. Shots were fired in at least two locations, she said.
Officers tried to stop the suspect at Garfield circle, at the foot of the Capitol, Dine said. She continued driving, striking a police cruiser near 1st Street and Maryland Avenue on Capitol Hill. The chase ended about a block away, Dine said, adjacent to two buildings where many senators have offices.
Overnight, authorities searched an apartment at the Woodside Green Condominiums in Stamford, where Carey had a residence.
After obtaining a search warrant, federal and local law enforcement officers broke through a window and placed a robot in the apartment to determine it was safe before entering, according to Stamford Police Chief Jon Fontneau. They hauled away items including a computer and cardboard boxes.
Fontneau said the suspect’s apartment wasn’t unusual. “She was nothing out of the ordinary that would draw attention to herself at that point,” he said. Fontneau said his department had prior experience with Carey that didn’t involve criminal charges, while declining to disclose details.
A video of the chase broadcast by CNN showed a black car being pursued by police cruisers, and several shots could be heard in the background. The video showed police firing shots at the car after the suspect almost drove over some of the officers attempting to capture her.
Two officers were injured, one from the Secret Service and one from the Capitol Police, Lanier said.
The Capitol Police officer was hurt when his vehicle struck a barricade, Dine told reporters. He was treated at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and released last night, according to a statement on the institution’s website.
The unidentified officer, who has served for 23 years on the Capitol Police force, is “doing fine,” Dine said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, spoke with the officer by telephone, according to Adam Jentleson, a spokesman. Reid said he “appreciated the bravery and dedication of the officer and his colleagues,” Jentleson said.
Child in Custody
At the briefing yesterday, Lanier wouldn’t describe the relationship of the child in the car to the driver. The child is in protective custody, she said.
Donovan said the incident is being investigated by the Washington police, with support from the Capitol Police, the Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Capitol shooting startled office workers and tourists in an area of Washington that has been under heavy security since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It took place less than three weeks after a gunman killed 12 people in a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, a military facility about a mile south of the Capitol.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident and his staff was in touch with law-enforcement authorities, according to a White House official who asked not to be identified in discussing security matters.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said he was on the Senate floor when he heard about the gunfire. He said he was “shaken” by the news and immediately called his wife.
“Hopefully, it was an isolated incident,” said Blumenthal, a leading advocate in Congress for strengthening gun regulations. He represents Newtown, where a shooter killed 20 children and six educators in an elementary school in December.
Ibrahima Bangoura, 43, was standing in front of the west lawn of the Capitol when he saw the police chase and heard seven to eight gunshots. He saw a black automobile being chased by five police cars with sirens blaring. He heard what sounded like a car crash at 1st Street and Constitution Avenue, followed by the sounds of “pop, pop, pop,” he said.
“People were running away from the gunshots,” said Bangoura, who lives in Bowie, Maryland.
“I was very scared,” he said in an interview. “I thought somebody was attacking. I saw some people dropping down on the ground.”
An hour after the incident ended, nearby streets were blocked by yellow tape and more than a dozen police vehicles.
Representative Juan Vargas, a California Democrat, was walking to the Capitol when he heard shots. A Capitol Police officer rushed at him, telling him to take off his pin identifying him as a congressman because he might be a target.
Bill Snyder and his twin brother, Bob, both of Nebraska, were among tourists redirected around a blocked-off Capitol building at Constitution and Delaware avenues.
Looking down the block to the line of flashing police lights, they said they came to Washington this week to celebrate their 58th birthday, lured by low round-trip air fares as tourism dried up in advance of the government shutdown.
The brothers said they got more than they bargained for, even with tourist destinations shuttered.
“We’ll remember we were here with all this,” said Bob Snyder, who lives outside Omaha. “We only got to visit outside the bottom of the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, couldn’t get into the Smithsonian Museum either because of the shutdown, now this. We’ll be talking about it for years.”