Gunshots rang out near the US Capitol Building in Washington DC Thursday afternoon, with police fatally shooting a female suspect who led them on a pursuit then rammed a security barrier near the White House.
Miriam Carey of Stamford, Connecticut was pronounced dead after local police fired multiple shots into her black sedan as she tried to flee through the streets of the nation’s capital. Carey, a 34-year-old African American woman, traveled with a one-year-old child that was taken from the scene unharmed and placed in protective custody.
Her identity was first reported by NBC News. Investigators told various media outlets the car was registered to Carey and there is no reason to believe she was not behind the wheel. Friends described Carey as a caring mother who may have endured a head injury.
Carey worked as a dental hygienist for Dr. Brian Evans of Hamden, Connecticut, until about a year ago. Evans told The New York Times Carey had "a bit of a temper" but "nothing unusual, nothing that would ever lead us to think she would ever do anything like this."
Authorities initially said she suffered from a "mental illness" but Carey's mother, Idella, later came forward to say Miriam suffered from a common form of depression that impacts women who recently gave birth.
"She had post-partum depression after having the baby [in August]," Idella Carey told ABC. "A few months later, she got sick. She was depressed...She was hospitalized."
Police officials said Thursday’s crime scene was the result of an “isolated incident” and not a terrorist attack.
What prompted the incident at approximately 2pm EST has not been made public, but witnesses told reporters that Carey appeared to have been pulled over near the Capitol Building when she tried to escape.
“The sedan slammed in reverse, backed up, and smashed into one of the cruisers and did a 180, and took off around the south side of the Capitol,” Frank Swing, a government employee on furlough who witnessed Thursday’s events, told Reuters.
“It was like boom, boom, boom, something like that,” said Peter Plocki, an employee at the Department of Transportation on leave because of the government shutdown.
The car was quickly blocked in again, jammed between a number of patrol cars and a security barrier installed after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Then came the gunshots.
Officers opened fire on the vehicle in at least two locations: first near Garfield Circle, a traffic circle on the southwest side of the city, and then again at Maryland Avenue and Second Street SE. A weapon was not found upon a later examination of Carey’s vehicle. The final episode, part of which was captured on video, is estimated to have lasted approximately 20 seconds.
One police officer was hospitalized following Thursday’s events but authorities said the 23-year veteran of the force will survive without serious injury. He was hurt in a car crash, not as a result of the shooting and released by Thursday night.
“The suspect in the vehicle, we do know, was struck by gunfire and at this point has been pronounced [dead],” Metropolitan police chief Cathy Lanier said in an evening press conference.
Witnesses inside the Capitol said they could hear the shots, all of which were fired by police, from the Senate floor. The area was placed on a temporary lockdown and police were met with a standing ovation in the House of Representatives when the freeze was lifted.
Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told the Associated Press he was briefed by the Department of Homeland Security. Upon being asked whether the suspect was armed, he said, “I don’t think she was. There was no return fire.”
Investigators told the public that the pursuit may have been worse had it not been for the barriers near the White House.
“The perimeters worked,” said DC Police chief Cathy Lanier during the press conference. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do.”