Reports of shots fired near the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. sent the entire city into chaos for about an hour. The suspect who prompted the mass confusion was 34-year-old Miriam Carey, a mother and dental hygienist from Connecticut. Carey was unarmed, and her family says she had a history of mental health issues. With more details surfacing about Carey, one question lingers: was it okay for police to shoot?
According to ABC News, Carey had her 1-year-old daughter in the backseat as she drove 80 mph through the city. She led authorities on a chase from the White House, where she rammed a security gate with her black coupe, to the Capitol Hill where she was eventually killed by police fire on Thursday. Officials said that this was an isolated incident and no weapons were found in the car.
“The car was trying to get away,” witness Matthew Coursen said. “But it was going over the median and over the curb. 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.”
Carey’s family and friends in New York and Connecticut were shocked to find out that she was the suspect in the incident that made national news. Police told NBC News that Carey believed President Barack Obama was stalking her. Her mother did say that she was suffering from a severe bout of postpartum depression after having her baby last year. But still, no one expected this.
“She had postpartum depression after having the baby,” Carey’s mother, Idella Carey, said. “A few months later, she got sick. She was depressed. She was hospitalized.”
Even though Carey was unarmed, U.S. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said that officers acted appropriately when they shot her. The Los Angeles Times spoke to Craig E. Geis, director of training for the California Training Institute, which teaches law enforcement officers what to do in intense situations. He said that officers are trained to respond to the perceived threat, not just what’s actually there.
When asked specifically about the incident at the Capitol, Geis said that Carey’s erratic behavior made the use of lethal force appropriate.
"It’s a perception issue. You’re looking at an individual that is unresponsive to commands, is driving erratically, and is acting in a crazy way, and all of that has to be very quickly evaluated,” Geis said. “I don’t really think it matters if she had a weapon or didn’t have a weapon. I think it’ll matter from the perspective of the public. But from an officer’s perspective ... Gunfire takes place in less than a heartbeat. That’s how quick an officer has to respond to survive in a situation. It’s a tough call.”