Officials seek answers in mother's Capitol Hill car chase

The Capitol Hill car chase involving a Connecticut mother came just 2-1/2 weeks after a gunman killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard – and it came during the government shutdown.

Evan Vucci/AP
A damaged Capitol Hill police car is surrounded by crime scene tape on Constitution Avenue near the Capitol after a car chase and shooting occurred Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, in Washington.
Advanced Periodontics/AP
This 2011 photo provided by Dr. Barry Weiss, from the website of Advanced Periodontics in Hamden, Conn., shows former employee Miriam Carey. Carey was shot to death by police after a car chase that began when she tried to breach a barrier at the White House then led police on a car chase around Capitol Hill.

Law enforcement officials are seeking answers to explain why a Connecticut woman on Thursday tried to drive through barricades at the White House and then led police on a car chase around Capitol Hill, during which the House and Senate briefly suspended business.

Officials identified the driver of the black, two-door Infiniti as Miriam Carey of Stamford, Conn. Officers shot and killed Ms. Carey a block northeast of the Capitol building, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. One Secret Service member and a Capitol Police officer suffered wounds that were described as not life threatening during the chase. When the incident ended, Carey’s 1-year-old daughter was found uninjured in the car and whisked from the scene by police.

The attempted breach of security involving two of the most heavily guarded sites in Washington came just 2-1/2 weeks after a gunman killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard. Thursday’s events appeared not to have any link to terrorism. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine told reporters the chase was an “isolated, singular matter.” There was no sign Carey was armed, police said, according to The Washington Post.

In an interview with ABC News, the mother of the Connecticut woman, Idella Carey, said her daughter had suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter and had been hospitalized. She had “no history of violence,” the elder Carey said. ABC said that the younger Carey, who was in her 30s, worked as a dental hygienist and quoted her former employer, Dr. Steven Oken, as saying she was “always happy.”

Investigators from the Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Connecticut State Police searched Carey’s apartment in Stamford. The search, involving more than 100 officials, began with police sending a robot into the apartment in case a bomb or other hazardous materials were present, the Post reported. The paper quoted Stamford Police Chief Jonathan Fontneau as saying the residence was a “typical” two-bedroom apartment with “nothing out of the ordinary.” 

CNN quoted law enforcement sources on Friday saying that investigators did find two medications in Carey's apartment. One is used to treat schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder; the other is an antidepressant.

On Friday morning, the apartment complex was declared safe, and residents who had been evacuated were allowed to return.

Law enforcement officials face a tough challenge in preventing incidents like this since, as Chief Fontneau said, until Thursday Carey was “nothing out of the ordinary that would draw attention to herself.” 

The car chase on the streets outside the Capitol, with speeds up to 80 miles an hour, occurred as the US government has been shut down in a dispute over funding and the fate of the Affordable Care Act. As a result, Capitol Police officers who responded to the brief crisis are not currently being paid.

Once legislative business resumed after the car chase, the House gave the Capitol Police a standing ovation, with House minority whip Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland saying he joined with the Republican majority in expressing gratitude for their work.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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