WASHINGTON — A frantic police chase through the heart of Washington, from the White House to Capitol Hill down Pennsylvania Avenue, ended Thursday with a woman shot to death, two law enforcement officers injured and the Capitol complex under emergency lockdown.
More than a dozen shots rang out on two sides of Capitol Hill, sending many legislators, staffers and tourists running for cover. Dozens of police cars and officers converged on a female driver on the Senate side of Capitol Hill. A 1-year-old child was rescued from the car and taken to a hospital.
The incident took place in a city already frayed over the government shutdown and a shooting rampage two weeks ago at the Washington Navy Yard that left 13 people dead.
The House of Representatives had just finished a series of votes when shots were heard outside. Many lawmakers turned around and locked themselves with aides in nearby offices. On the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was about to give a cable television interview when he too locked himself inside his office with the reporter and camera crew.
"Gunshots have been reported on Capitol Hill requiring staff in all Senate office buildings to immediately shelter in place," said a hurried email sent by the Capitol Police.
"Close, lock and stay away from external doors and windows. Take annunciators, emergency supply kits and escape hoods; and move to your office's assigned shelter-in-place location or the innermost part of the office away from external doors or windows."
Outside, the chase lasted three minutes and covered two miles along some of the most heavily policed streets in the United States. Many of the federal officers who gave chase were working without pay because of the shutdown.
The incident began about 2:12 p.m. at the White House, where President Obama was working inside. Police said the driver of the car tried to breach the barricades at an outer checkpoint on the mansion's northeast side.
The black sedan with Connecticut license plates struck a Secret Service agent as it sped away, police said.
A few minutes later, outside the western front of the Capitol, television video showed half a dozen officers firing a volley of shots at the car. The car nevertheless was able to back away, ramming a cruiser and fleeing around a traffic circle up the hill on Constitution Avenue, as multiple police cars gave chase.
On top of Capitol Hill, more police gunfire erupted, and the driver was fatally shot between First and Second streets. A Capitol Police officer was injured when his car struck a barricade. Police said a second law enforcement officer was also injured.
The Hartford Courant, citing a source with knowledge of the investigation, identified the driver as Miriam Carey, 34, a dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn. The Courant said she appeared to have lived most of her adult life in Brooklyn, N.Y. Two years ago she formed a home-based business, Experienced Dental Placements, which appeared to operate as a temporary employment firm, the paper said.
Police gave no motive, but they emphasized repeatedly that they believed it to be an isolated incident and that there was no known link to terrorist groups.
The chase ended just outside the Hart Office Building and Sen. Barbara Boxer's window.
The California Democrat had just returned after a party caucus lunch and was preparing to brief her staff on the government shutdown when, she said, she "heard these incredibly loud noises outside the window."
"And we looked at each other because we've never heard sounds like this, just in rapid succession: boom, boom, boom, boom. About five or six," she told reporters. "And then we knew something terrible had happened."
Boxer and several aides ran to a stairwell, then into a windowless conference room.
"It's just extremely unnerving. We didn't know what was going to happen next," Boxer said.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) was on the House floor preparing to speak about the government shutdown when the presiding officer gaveled the chamber into recess without explanation.
At first, Schiff said, he thought it was an effort to stop debate. But he and other lawmakers soon learned by word of mouth and email messages about the gunshots fired outside. They remained in the chamber or in cloakrooms for about half an hour until police declared an all-clear.
Some tourists thought the gunplay was a jackhammer, perhaps from a construction site a block away at the Supreme Court.
Whit Dabney was visiting from Louisville, Ky., to celebrate his 13th birthday, and he and his father, Andy, had just bought a hot dog from a stand near First Street and Constitution Avenue on their way to the office of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Suddenly shots filled the air and police cars filled the streets. "We looked at each other and were like, 'That was unusual,'" Andy Dabney said.
"I thought, 'What's going on?'" Whit Dabney said. "So many things have happened in Washington, D.C. And now this."
Irina Kleiman and her husband were visiting from Toronto when "everyone started running," she said.
A police officer with "a huge rifle started yelling at us, 'This is real, get down!'"
They found cover in a nearby guard house with 40 other tourists and Hill staffers. "I was so scared," Kleiman said.
Becca Clemons, Lisa Mascaro and Michael Memoli in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun