A car chase around the U.S. Capitol that led to the fatal shooting of a Connecticut woman was initiated by the woman making a U-turn at a White House security checkpoint, according to court papers filed as investigators work to determine the appropriateness of the police response.
An affidavit filed in support of an application for a warrant to search the black Nissan Infiniti that police followed in a harrowing pursuit, says 34-year-old Miriam Carey began to flee the checkpoint and struck a bicycle rack put in her path by an officer with the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division. The officer was then struck by the bike rack and knocked to the ground and Ms. Carey fled in the car.
Ms. Carey's family said Monday they don't believe her shooting after the pursuit that led to the U.S. Capitol was warranted.
"My sister didn't have a gun. She was not shooting a weapon from her vehicle, so deadly physical force of a weapon being fired upon her car — I don't believe was justified," Ms. Carey's sister, Valarie Carey, a former New York City police officer, said in an interview with CNN.
An investigation by the District's Metropolitan Police Department continues into why Ms. Carey drove from her Connecticut home on Thursday to the White House, evaded officers and raced toward the Capitol with a trail of police cars following her. Authorities will also have to make an official determination whether the lethal use of force by officers was justified.
Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said at the scene that Ms. Carey's actions did not appear to be an "accident" and that the security perimeters at the Capitol and the White House "did exactly what they were supposed to do."
Some observers agreed.
"When you're in a shoot-or-don't-shoot situation, it moves very quickly," said Joseph McCann Jr., a retired D.C. police detective and now a private investigator. "It's not that the U.S. Capitol is six blocks away or two blocks away, the car is about to hurt somebody."
Mr. McCann said MPD's Internal Affairs Division likely will be looking at what officers knew about the unfolding situation when they took action.
Police practices specialists say agency guidelines generally prohibit officers from opening fire on moving vehicles, except under specific circumstances — such tas when an officer could be run down by the vehicle.
According to the affidavit filed in federal court, U.S. Capitol Police and uniformed Secret Service officers opened fire after Ms. Carey struck a patrol car.
"Some [police departments] have policies that discourage shooting at moving vehicles," said Curtis Cope, a police practices specialist in Orange County, Calif., and retired Huntington Beach Police Department officer. "Oftentimes the shooting at the vehicle won't necessarily stop it."
While not involved in the shooting, the Metropolitan Police Department's general orders ban officers from firing at or from a moving vehicle "unless deadly force is being used against the officer or another person." The orders specify that "a moving vehicle is not considered deadly force."
U.S. Capitol Police spokesman Officer Shennell Antrobus said the agency does not publicly reveal its internal policies and declined to speak specifically about the events currently under review.
But a Capitol Police official said a different outcome might have been possible if the agency had radio communication with Secret Service officers as the chase was beginning. The agencies' two-way radios are not compatible, and as Capitol Police watched Secret Service officials drive past with lights and sirens on, some thought it was part of a motorcade, said the official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the incident. Capitol Police, the official said, were given no indication anything was wrong until they heard the shots fired and transmissions on their own radio frequency.
The official said the communication problem likely led to a delay in officers' raising barriers embedded in the roadways around the complex that would have prevented the chase from entering the Capitol grounds. Ms. Carey sped past the barrier, while a Capitol Police officer crashed into one and was injured.
Ms. Carey reportedly suffered from postpartum depression with psychosis, a factor officers could not have known about during the chase. Nevertheless, the family said, police have protocols that account for a fleeing person's state of mind.
"What happened here is a failure of training because that still doesn't give you right to use deadly physical force. Every major police department has the same policy. You just can't shoot at a fleeing person because you have to factor in that they may not understand," family attorney Eric Sanders told CNN.
Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance W. Gainer told The Associated Press he was confident the officers "did the best they could under the situation."
"This is not a routine highway or city traffic stop. It is simply not that," Mr. Gainer said. "The milieu under which we're operating at the United States Capitol and I suspect at the White House and at icons up in New York is an antiterrorism approach, and that is a difference with a huge, huge distinction."
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