WASHINGTON (AP) — Police in Washington are reviewing the use of officers’ deadly force in the killing of a woman who tried to ram her car through a White House barrier, a shooting her family says was unjustified.
The investigation will reconstruct the car chase and shooting, which briefly put the U.S. Capitol on lockdown, and explore how officers dealt with the driver and whether protocols were followed.
Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer said he was confident the officers “did the best they could under the situation.” Police guarding national landmarks must make fast decisions without the luxury of all the facts, especially when a threat is perceived, he said.
“This is not a routine highway or city traffic stop. It is simply not that,” Gainer said Saturday. “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 anti-terrorism approach, and that is a difference with a huge, huge distinction.”
Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said that while the shooting remains under investigation, he was proud of his officers’ “heroic” response and their overall efforts in protecting the Capitol campus and keeping it open for visitors.
Still, the family of 34-year-old Miriam Carey called the shooting unjustified, and some deadly force experts agree it merits scrutiny.
“We’re still very confused as a family why she’s not still alive,” Amy Carey-Jones said in New York late Friday after traveling to Washington to identify Miriam Carey’s body. “I really feel like it’s not justified, not justified.” Another sister, retired New York City police officer Valarie Carey, said there was “no need for a gun to be used when there was no gunfire coming from the vehicle.”
Secret Service agents and Capitol Police officers fired shots during the Thursday afternoon encounter, which began when Carey — in a black Infiniti with her 1-year-old daughter — rammed a White House barricade and was pursued by police toward the Capitol during a high-speed chase.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she was confident after the shooting that Carey’s actions were “not an accident,” but the department’s internal affairs division is investigating as part of standard protocol.
Carey struck a Secret Service agent with her car at the White House and reversed her vehicle into a police car, authorities say. A Capitol Police officer was also injured. Both are expected to recover.
Experts in the use of deadly force said there were more questions than answers at this point. Many police departments direct their officers not to fire at moving vehicles — even if the driver is using the car as a weapon — or permit it under extremely limited circumstances. And experts wondered whether police should have relied on other options, such as establishing a roadblock, to diffuse the situation.
“I think the question we have to ask is, ‘What threat did she cause?” said Geoffrey Alpert, an expert on police use of force at the University of South Carolina. “What threat was she to the officers, to the public, to the politicians?”
Chuck Drago, a former Oviedo, Fla., police chief who now works as a police consultant, said he was concerned officers approached the vehicle on foot while the conflict was still unfolding. That kind of direct contact can elevate the tension of an already dangerous scenario and leave an officer feeling anxious and vulnerable, he said.