Investigators search for clues behind U.S. Capitol car chase and shooting

Posted at 6:26 AM, Oct 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-04 08:26:07-04

By Lateef Mungin

WASHINGTON (CNN) — After all the chaos and gunfire, still remains the question: Why did a woman with a young child try to drive into a blocked entrance near the White House?

The woman, identified by law enforcement officials as 34-year-old Miriam Carey, was shot dead Thursday.

But why?

Investigators searched for clues at the woman’s Stamford, Connecticut, home into the evening, law enforcement sources said. Police and bomb squad units surrounded an apartment complex there. But authorities gave little official word on what was found.

Other investigators pressed to speak with the woman’s relatives in Brooklyn, New York, but were turned away, federal law enforcement sources told CNN.

It was unclear Thursday night whether detectives were closer to learning what prompted the mayhem at the U.S. Capitol.

History of concerns

Carey’s boyfriend contacted police in December saying he feared for the safety of their child, who was 4 months old at the time, according to a law enforcement source involved in the investigation. The boyfriend said the woman was acting delusional, claiming the president had placed Stamford under lockdown and that her house was under electronic surveillance, the source said.

He told police that she was suffering from post-partum depression, was having trouble sleeping and was on medication. Carey underwent a mental health evaluation, said the source, who added that the boyfriend has been question by federal authorities about Thursday’s events.

The source told CNN that Carey left a letter addressed to the boyfriend at her apartment and that it appeared to contain white powder. The letter is being tested for hazardous substances.

Federal and local law enforcement agents evacuated Carey’s neighborhood Thursday before searching her apartment in the evening, the source said. Authorities checked her residence for explosives before entering, but none were found.

A car chase, gunshots

Thursday’s drama began around 2 p.m., when the woman steered a black Infiniti near the White House, a U.S. Secret Service source said. She drove up to a barrier at the 15th and E street checkpoint and was approached by Secret Service officers. She hurriedly made an erratic three-point turn, struck the barrier and backed into an officer before driving away, the source told CNN.

Police said the car sped down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol, where security vehicles stopped it at Garfield Circle.

The woman slammed the car into reverse, crashing into a police cruiser, and tried to get away. At that point officers began firing, a witness said.

Dramatic video footage by other witnesses showed the black vehicle then careening around a nearby traffic circle with a police car in close pursuit and then heading away. The car crashed into more security barriers a few blocks later, witnesses said.

More shots were fired after the vehicle stopped, and the woman was hit several times, said Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier. Carey was later pronounced dead, Lanier said. Two officers were injured.

Chaos and a child in the car

Inside the car was a 1-year-old child, who was not harmed. The child was taken into protective custody, officials said. Officers didn’t know there was a child inside the woman’s car during the chase, officials said. Also, the early investigation revealed that there was no evidence that the woman had a gun or fired a shot.

The bedlam from the fatal chase reverberated throughout a U.S. Capital already shaken by the recent mass shooting at the Navy Yard in the city. It came at a time when the government shutdown has hampered some federal agencies.

Authorities lauded the action of police — some of whom aren’t being paid — who responded to the incident.

Because of the government shutdown, U.S. Capitol Police aren’t receiving a paycheck, although they will receive checks once appropriations are restored.

A Capitol Police officer whose vehicle crashed during the chase was hurt, authorities said. The officer was released from a hospital Thursday night. The Secret Service did not release information about its injured agent.

The chase created a scene of blaring sirens, locked-down lawmakers and bystanders hitting the dirt.

House and Senate sessions were immediately suspended, with legislators ordered to take cover and keep away from windows. Police also closed Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

“The timing on this was really kind of scary,” said Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas. “Capitol Hill police are at a lower personnel level because of the shutdown.”

Tom Cohen wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Deborah Feyerick, Evan Perez, Dana Bash, Mike Ahlers, Ted Barrett, Jake Tapper, John King, Aaron Cooper, John Auerbach, Gabe Lamonica, Brian Todd, Martina Stewart, Rose Arce and Dan Merica contributed to this report.

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