WASHINGTON, D.C. — A dramatic car chase through the streets of Washington from near the White House to the U.S. Capitol ended in gunfire on Thursday when the driver was shot as lawmakers and aides huddled in a lockdown.
“The suspect in the vehicle was struck by gunfire and at this point has been pronounced (dead),” Washington’s police chief, Cathy Lanier, told reporters.
The car involved in the chase was registered to Miriam Carey, 34, of Connecticut, and law enforcement officials believe she was the driver, the Washington Post reported, citing officials. NBC News also identified the driver as Carey.
Driving a black car, the woman rammed security barricades “at the very outer perimeter of the White House,” U.S. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said. Then the car, carrying a 1-year-old girl, raced up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol where Congress was in session.
“My understanding is there was a 1-year-old child in the car,” Dine said. “I believe one of our officers rescued the child,” who was taken to a hospital.
An official said there was no apparent connection to terrorism and a police official said it appeared to be an isolated incident.
Police gave chase and fired at the car. It finally came to a halt at 2nd Street and Constitution Avenue, where the shots were fired.
Two officers were hurt in Thursday’s incident. One was a Secret Service officer who was struck by the suspect’s car outside the White House, Donovan said.
The other was a Capitol Police officer whose car struck a barricade during the mid-afternoon chase. It ranged over about a mile and a half and lasted just a few minutes, officials said.
All the shooting appears to have been done by police; law enforcement sources said the suspect did not shoot a gun and there is no indication that she had one.
Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, told CNN that officials believe the woman driving the car may have had mental health problems.
“I got that from multiple sources — that they think she may have had some mental health issues,” he said. “Obviously the way she responded at the gate near the White House and then turning around and hitting Secret Service.”
The woman was a resident of Connecticut and the girl in the car was her daughter, McCaul said.
“I was just eating a hot dog over here and I heard about four or five gunshots, and then a swarm of police cars came in wailing their sirens,” said Whit Dabney, 13, who was visiting from Louisville and heard the shots a couple of blocks away.
Witness Travis Gilbert said several police cars chased a black sedan at high speed toward the Capitol.
“They ran all the red lights. It was a very dangerous situation,” Gilbert said.
He said the car stopped outside the Capitol and he heard gunshots. One police car hit a bollard and was damaged.
An injured policeman was taken from the shooting scene in a Medevac helicopter, police said.
“He appears to be conscious and breathing but we’re following up,” said Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine. “As far as we know, no officer has been shot.”
Dine said he believed there was a child in the car with the suspect.
Just before Capitol Police sealed off the Capitol building, the Senate and House were in session. On the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain of Arizona was urging that President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators launch negotiations to break the deadlock over government funding and a debt limit increase.
The House had just passed a bill to fund the National Guard and reservists who are not on active duty during the shutdown.
The Capitol police, who were deemed “essential” staff, were at work despite the shutdown but they are not being paid.
Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi told MSNBC he heard sirens and saw police motorcycles go by and then heard four to six shots fired.
“I was walking in the direction of the gunshots, so I stopped and I noticed Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was headed my way. We both took cover behind an SUV,” Wicker said. “And then police officers came and told us to get down.”
The lockdown order at the Capitol was called off after about an hour and security along Independence Avenue was eased shortly before 3 p.m. Tourists were allowed back onto the Capitol grounds.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident, a White House official said, providing no further details.
Crystal Canney, spokeswoman for Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said the senator and his staff were not injured.
“At the time of the gunfire, Senator King was on the Senate floor and he remains there safely while the Capitol complex is in lockdown. Senator King’s staff who are working during the government shutdown are also safe, accounted for, and on lockdown in Senator King’s Dirksen Senate Office,” Canney said.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said on Twitter that she and her staff also were safe. Pingree later released a statement thanking Capitol Police for their dedication and swift response.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the officer who was injured during the incident,” she said in the release.
Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, also issued a statement saying he and his staff were safe.
“I’d like to commend the swift action of the Capitol Police as they worked to keep members of Congress, staff and visitors safe,” Michaud wrote.
Security is tight near the Capitol, but there have been previous shootings in the area. In 1998, a gunman burst through a security checkpoint at the Capitol and killed two Capitol police officers in an exchange of fire that sent tourists and other bystanders diving for cover. The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston Jr., was not charged with a crime because of apparent mental instability.
An initial report said shots were fired inside the Capitol building. New reports state that shots have been fired outside.