WASHINGTON — A woman with a 1-year-old child in her car was fatally shot by police near the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, after a chase through the heart of Washington, D.C., that brought a new jolt of fear to a city already rattled by the recent Navy Yard shooting and the federal shutdown.
The car was registered to Miriam Carey, 34, a dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn., law-enforcement officials said, adding that they believed Carey was the driver.
District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier said that the driver tried to breach two D.C. landmarks and that the incident was not an accident. But officials also said it did not appear to be part of any larger or organized terrorist plot.
The chase began about 2:15 p.m. at a White House security checkpoint, where the black Infiniti driven by the woman struck a barrier and a Secret Service officer. The woman drove away from that fortified icon and headed straight for another: the Capitol.
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During the chase, police officers opened fire twice, both times in areas busy with tourists and office workers. The Capitol was locked down, as a bitter debate over the government shutdown was interrupted by echoes of shots, officers with guns and an order to “shelter in place.”
The end came outside the Hart Senate Office Building, at Maryland Avenue and Second Street Northeast. The woman’s car got stuck. Officers fired another volley. Then, moments later, an officer was seen with the child, carrying the toddler quickly away as new waves of officers arrived.
Authorities said the woman was not armed, and although the incident was first reported as a shooting at the Capitol, the only shots were fired by officers.
Lanier said that the child was in good condition and in protective custody. Two officers were injured in the chase along Pennsylvania Avenue, but neither was seriously hurt.
The chaotic day caught the city at an unusually low moment. Coming just days after the government shut down because of a budget impasse and weeks after 12 people were killed at the nearby Navy Yard, the notion of gunfire and a car hurtling from the White House to the Capitol had the city thinking the worst.
It began with something not that unusual: A driver with out-of-state plates turning into a blocked entry near the White House.
It quickly became something else.
“Whoa! Whoa!” Secret Service officers were shouting at the car, according to a witness, Shawn Joseph, 29. “It looked liked [the driver was] scared or lost. I thought they might have been a tourist.”
But then, witnesses said, officers tried to place a barrier in front of the car. The driver swerved. The officers moved the barrier. She hit it, and a Secret Service officer was thrown up on the hood and then off the car.
The officer had minor injuries. The driver fled east and was stopped by police at a small traffic circle at the foot of Capitol Hill. There, video shot by the U.S.-funded Arabic TV station Alhurra shows officers with guns pointed at the car. The driver took off.
“I thought it was a motorcade,” said Ryan Christiansen, from Idaho Falls, Idaho, when he saw the black car trailed by police cars with sirens wailing. Then, Christiansen said, the car “was pulling away, and somewhere between six and eight shots were fired,” he said.
Despite the shots, the driver continued. She went around another traffic circle and then up Constitution Avenue toward the peak of Capitol Hill.
Up there, tourist Edmund Ofori-Attah, 46, was walking toward the Hart building to ask if it was open for tours. With most of the city’s top attractions closed, touring an office building sounded better than nothing.
Then he saw a black car whiz past. It abruptly turned left, as if to make a U-turn, and lodged itself on a grassy divide.
“That’s where it got pinned,” he said. “At that point, we heard five to six rounds of gunfire and my wife and I dropped to the ground. We were hoping not to get in the way of a stray bullet … We even smelled the gunpowder in the air.”
The final shots were fired there, on that median. Police said they were not sure how many officers had fired or how many times the woman was shot.
In the hours after the final, fatal shooting, law-enforcement officials said the car had been registered to Carey. The FBI was at Carey’s apartment Thursday night.
Police said the incident showed the success of the huge security apparatus that Washington has built since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“The security perimeters worked” at the White House and the Capitol, Lanier said. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do.”