WASHINGTON — A woman with a 1-year-old girl led Secret Service and police on a harrowing car chase from the White House past the Capitol on Thursday, attempting to penetrate the security barriers at both national landmarks before she was shot to death, police said. The child survived.
Tourists, congressional staff and even some senators watched as a caravan of law enforcement vehicles chased a black Infiniti with Connecticut license plates down Constitution Avenue outside the Capitol. House and Senate lawmakers, inside debating how to end a government shutdown, briefly shuttered their chambers as Capitol Police shut down the building.
“I’m pretty confident this was not an accident,” said Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Still, Capitol Police said there appeared to be no terrorist link. Authorities would not say whether the woman had been armed.
The woman’s car at one point had been surrounded by police cars and she managed to escape, careening around a traffic circle and past the north side of the Capitol. Video shot by a TV camerman showed police pointing firearms at her car before she rammed a Secret Service vehicle and continued driving. Lanier said police shot and killed her a block northeast of the historic building.
One Secret Service member and a 23-year veteran of the Capitol Police were injured. Officials said they are in good condition and expected to recover.
“This appears to be an isolated, singular matter, with, at this point, no nexus to terrorism,” said Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine.
Law-enforcement authorities identified the woman as Miriam Carey, 34, of Stamford, Connecticut. The authorities spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge the information publicly.
Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia said the FBI was executing a search warrant at a Stamford address in connection with the investigation. Police officers had cordoned off a condominium building and the surrounding neighborhood in the shoreline city.
The pursuit began when the car sped onto a driveway leading to the White House, over a set of lowered barricades. When the driver couldn’t get through a second barrier, she spun the car in the opposite direction, flipping a Secret Service officer over the hood of the car as she sped away, said B.J. Campbell, a tourist from Portland, Oregon.
Then the chase began.
“The car was trying to get away. But it was going over the median and over the curb,” said Matthew Coursen, who was watching from a cab window when the Infiniti sped by him. “The car got boxed in and that’s when I saw an officer of some kind draw his weapon and fire shots into the car.”
Police shot and killed the driver just outside the Hart Senate Office Building, where many senators have their offices. Dine said an officer took the child from the car to a hospital. She is in good condition under protective custody, officials said.
A few senators between the Capitol and their office buildings said they heard the shots.
“We heard three, four, five pops,” said Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. Police ordered Casey and nearby tourists to crouch behind a car for protection, then hustled everyone into the Capitol.
The shooting comes two weeks after a mentally disturbed employee terrorized the Navy Yard with a shotgun, leaving 13 people dead including the gunman.
Before the disruption, lawmakers had been trying to find common ground to end a government shutdown. The House had just finished approving legislation aimed at partly lifting the government shutdown by paying National Guard and Reserve members.
Capitol Police on the plaza around the Capitol said they were working without pay as the result of the shutdown.
Maine Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud were all safe Thursday afternoon as the events unfolded. “The senator is on the floor of the Senate right now. He was on the floor at the time,” said Scott Ogden, a spokesman for King.
Collins was in her office in the Dirksen Office Building at the time of the shooting, according to her spokesman.
“We are all accounted for,” said Jeremy Kirkpatrick, her spokesman, shortly after the lockdown started. “The senator and staff are in our office and we are just waiting for instructions from Capitol Police.”
Likewise, Pingree’s chief of staff Jesse Connolly said the congresswoman and all staff were safely inside. Connolly said that Pingree had just left the Capitol building after voting but reached a safe location.
Michaud was on the House floor at the time and remained there for the duration of the lockdown.
Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller contributed to this story.