A car chase that began when a driver struck a White House security barrier ended across downtown Washington, when police shot and killed the driver on a street near the U.S. Capitol, police said.
The woman driving the car was unarmed, law enforcement sources said. All the shots in the incident, which began about 2:14 p.m., were fired by police trying to stop her. Police fired at the car in at least two locations, as the car drove across Washington, and around the Capitol area.
Law enforcement officials said the car was registered to Miriam Carey, 34, of Stamford, Ct. The officials said they believe Carey was driving the car.
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said that there was a one year-old child in the car. The child was said to be in good condition.
Two officers were injured during the incident, including a Capitol Police officer and a Secret Service officer. Both were not seriously harmed.
“The security perimeters worked,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Thursday evening. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
The chase and the shootings triggered a brief lockdown in the Capitol, which was full of lawmakers and staff focused on the ongoing government shutdown. Officers ran through the ornate hallways carrying semiautomatic weapons for a tense half hour as employees were told to ‘shelter in place’. But no one in the Capitol complex was hurt, and the House resumed its business before 4 p.m.
“We have no information that this is related to terrorism, or is anything other than an isolated incident,” Dine said. He gave no information about the driver’s identity, or a possible motive.
The chase apparently stretched across downtown Washington: it started at the security barriers outside one icon, and ended at the barriers outside another.
Police said shots were first fired at the car at Garfield Circle SW, a traffic circle on the southwest side of the Capitol. Shots were fired again at Maryland Avenue and Second Street SE. The car crashed, and then police fired again, Lanier said. Officers from both the Capitol Police and the Secret Service both fired, Lanier said, but it was unclear how many officers had fired shots, or how many rounds had been fired in total..
At the beginning of it all, Oregon residents B.J. and Susan Campbell saw a black sedan driven by a woman heading west on Pennsylvania, into a security checkpoint at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The driver went about 20 yards, B.J. Campbell said, before rapidly turning the car around at the concrete security barriers.
“The Secret Service guy was just having a cow,” B.J. Campbell said. “Yelling at her and banging on the car.” The Secret Service officers pulled a black metal gate into her path and she slowed to try to go around it. Then the agent moved the gate in front of her again.
At that point “she just gunned it,” B.J. Campbell said. “She ran the barricade down and the guy; knocked him up onto her hood. He rolled off into the street, and she tore off down Pennsylvania Avenue.” The whole encounter lasted about 20 seconds, he said.
Another witness said the man was an off-duty officer in plain clothes holding a lunch cooler in his hand.
A few moments later and about 1.7 miles away, eyewitnesses reported seeing a black car speeding through Capitol Hill streets, pursued by several police vehicles.
“At first I thought the driver was trying to get out of the way of police, but then I realized [the car] was being chased,” said Giancarlo Refalo, a tourist from Malta.
Refalo said he heard several gunshots followed by “lots of screaming and shouting.” Then the black vehicle came back on First Street toward Constitution chased by police. “They were swerving all over the place,” he said. “By that time I was hiding in the bushes because I was so scared.”
“We was up at the Capitol, seeing some of the protesters, saw five or six cop cars chasing that car,” said Ryan Christiansen, from Idaho Falls, Idaho. He said it was a small black car and that police chased it “around and around” a traffic circle near the Capitol.
That was confirmed by video taken by the channel Alhurra, which showed officers pointing guns at a black sedan at the foot of Capitol Hill. The sedan then sped away from the officers, circled around two different traffic circles, and then sped east on Constitution Avenue toward the top of Capitol Hill.
“I thought it was a motorcade,” Christiansen said.
The driver “was pulling away, and somewhere between six and eight shots were fired,”
Christiansen said. Police tried to use their vehicles to block the car, but the driver “got out of that and got away,” he said.
He said he heard the shots and police told them all to hit the ground.
David Loewenberg, 21, an intern with the Education Department, arrived shortly after the shots were fired near the Capitol.
“I saw a police officer hugging a small child, taking her away,” Loewenberg said.
At the same time, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) was on a balcony of the Capitol building. “It was almost like two very rapid-fire bursts, very loud,” Connolly said. He was standing with Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) when they heard two bursts of gunfire. Connolly thought the shots had come from the opposite direction, toward the House office buildings to the south.
After the shots, Connolly said, “that’s when we saw people fleeing, and we realized this was no fireworks,” Connolly said. “It sounds liked the first volley of a 21 -gun salute.”
Connolly said he could see people fleeing the Rayburn Building and police officers running toward it before he was shepherded back into the building. The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department said one person was transported to a hospital for treatment.
The order sent to Capitol personnel began with an all-caps message: SHELTER IN PLACE. “Gunshots have been reported on Capitol Hill requiring staff in all Senate Office Buildings to immediately shelter in place. Close, lock and stay away from external doors and windows,” said the message, sent by Capitol Police.
Afterward, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) took to Twitter to thank the police. “We all owe the Capitol Police a debt of gratitude for their work every day; no finer examples of professionalism & bravery,” Boehner wrote.
On the House floor, legislators rose for a round of applause after Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) praised Capitol Police for providing protection for the Capitol complex.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) spoke after the round of applause, telling the police force, “We really appreciate it.”
The chamber also stood and applauded for the staff of the House Sergeant at Arms.
Man, DC must be going through hell. First, the naval yard is shot up, then the shutdown, and now this.