Female driver dead following car chase, shooting near Capitol

Greg Nash


One woman was dead and two police officers injured Thursday during a high-speed pursuit that culminated in a barrage of gunfire, sending Capitol Hill into panic.

The woman has been identified as Miriam Carey, 34, of Stamford, Conn., according to NBC Washington.

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The episode began shortly after 2 p.m. at the west end of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, where Carey smashed a black car into a barricade near the White House, in a possible attempt to breech security. A small child was also in the vehicle.

It ended many minutes later outside the Senate Hart Office Building, where Carey was apparently gunned down by police officers who had chased her across the Capitol Complex.

"There was a bang. And then: boom, boom, boom, boom," said Justin Herman, who lives near the intersection of Third Street and Maryland Avenue, NE.  "There were a lot of shots fired."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who had been briefed, said during an appearance on CNN the slain suspect was a 34-year-old African-American woman.

She was carried from the scene on a stretcher and pronounced dead soon after.

The child was unscathed and was taken to an area hospital, Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer told reporters.

One of the injured officers, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police Force, was injured when his car hit a traffic barrier near Garfield Circle, Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said.

Reportedly airlifted by a helicopter seen touching down west of the Capitol building, the officer's injuries are not life threatening. 

“He’s going to be fine,” Dine said.

A member of Secret Service agents was also injured during the chase, authorities said.

Thousands of people, including scores of members of Congress, were ordered to take shelter at about 2:15 p.m., with police shouting at those outside the Capitol to run for safety.

About a dozen Capitol Police officers could be seen streaming from the Capitol Visitor Center, through the Senate subway, and into the Capitol building. Capitol Police officers had assault weapons drawn.

Pennsylvania Avenue was also cleared because of the shots, and Secret Service agents could be seen putting up barricades across the street from White House.

All six congressional office buildings, area agencies, schools and the Capitol Building itself were placed on lockdown.

At the Dirksen Senate Office Building, near the scene of the shooting, lawmakers, staff and reporters were locked into hearing rooms and offices. Shrieking alarms were interrupted by repeated announcements over handheld radios.

"If you are in an office building, remain sheltered in place. If you are outside, seek shelter immediately," a message from Capitol Police said.

The order was lifted in less than an hour, as authorities determined the threat was over, and Carey's actions were deemed isolated.

Her car, a small black coupe, slammed into the barricade near Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street at a few minutes after 2 p.m.

Shawn Joseph, 29, a Washington resident who was nearby, said people were alarmed by noise from the impact and assumed it was a garden variety traffic accident until the vehicle reversed course and sped from the scene.

"This doesn't appear in any way an accident," Metro Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier said hours later. “This was a lengthy pursuit."

Carey fled east on Pennsylvania Avenue at high speeds, driving erratically, authorities said.  She collided with a police vehicle near Second Street and Constitution Avenue NW, where the officers opened fire on the car.

Carey again evaded police, driving east on Constitution Avenue toward the Hart Senate Office Building, where she was killed in a hail of gunfire. 

Lanier said members of the Secret Service and the Capitol Police fired their weapons at the two shooting scenes.

Authorities declined to speculate on Carey's motive, though Dine said there is no evidence that incident has any connection to terrorism. The FBI was also involved in the investigation, which remained in the early stages Thursday evening.

As of 5 p.m., a damaged Capitol Police squad car, its doors hanging open, remained surrounded by police tape near the scene of the officer’s wreck, just northwest of the Capitol. More than a dozen yellow evidence markers littered the street.

Lanier said Metro Police would take the lead on the investigation. Initial findings, she said, indicated that law enforcement — as well as security precautions around Washington’s power centers — did their job.

"At the White House and at the Capitol, the security perimeters worked," Lanier said, adding that U.S. Secret Service and Capitol Police officers acted "heroically.”

— This story was first posted at 9:00 p.m. and has been updated.