The sisters of a Connecticut woman shot and killed by police in Washington, D.C., a week ago say they have many unanswered questions, including why officers chose to draw their guns and point them at a woman who may, at that point, have done no more than make bad driving decisions.
Miriam Carey, 34, was killed Oct. 3 after a car chase from the White House to the Capitol. Police say she rammed a metal barricade at the White House with her black Infiniti, although multiple videos show the front of her car relatively undamaged, and she was able to drive away.
Sources say she made an erratic turn, struck the barrier, backed into an officer and then drove away, with her 13-month-old daughter in the back seat. Security vehicles stopped her on Pennsylvania Avenue on her way to the Capitol. She slammed the car in reverse, hitting a police cruiser, then tried to get away as police officers began firing.
She crashed into security barriers a few blocks away, where she was killed by so many police bullets her family was allowed only to see her photograph to identify her.
Washington police chief Cathy Lanier told reporters she was convinced the incident was not an “accident,” but she did not characterize it.
Carey’s sisters spoke Monday to Matt Lauer on “Today.” They said Miriam could have been frightened by the officers’ weapons.
“What I do see is that perhaps maybe my sister was a little afraid being surrounded by officers with their guns drawn,” Valarie Carey said. “My sister was fleeing. She was trying to figure out how to get out of there.”
Amy Carey-Jones said: “I feel that things could have been handled a lot differently. We still feel that there was maybe another story than what we’re being told.”
Police have alleged that Miriam Carey thought President Obama was stalking her, and she traveled hundreds of miles to the White House with ill motives.
“She didn’t contribute anything [to the situation],” said Eric Sanders, an attorney with the two sisters. “She had absolutely every right to be in the nation’s capital.”
He challenged law enforcement officers for their decision-making in the confrontation. He questioned whether police protocols in place for such a situation were followed.
The sisters told “Today” they still have not been told exactly what happened.
And for the explanation that Miriam Carey felt she was under surveillance? Valeria Carey said, “That’s not the Miriam we knew.”
Amy Carey-Jones added, “She was not walking around delusional.”
“How was she allowed to drive in that area?” wondered Valarie Carey, suggesting that her sister was trying to figure out how to get out of there.
In a video that shows her fleeing the White House gate, Miriam Carey either did not or could not get the car in a forward gear while several officers were in front of her. One officer took a minimum of four steps while the car remained still, and he moved out of the way before she accelerated the car.
The sisters confirmed Miriam Carey had postpartum depression and was under a doctor’s care but also said her medications were being tapered off.
The police, the sisters insisted, did not need to shoot her.
See the interview:
In another interview, a witness to the shooting said officers removed the 13-month-old child from the car then shot and killed the mother.
The witness said, "I saw them try to pull someone from the car and realized when they pulled someone from the car it was a child."
That, the witness said, is when "the gunfire really let loose," against the unarmed Miriam Carey.
She saw someone trying to get out of the car, there were more gunshots and then "a rush of people."
The sisters also said when they went to the coroner's office to identify their sister, they were shown only a photograph.
Even allowing that Miriam Carey broke the law, had a bad driving day and made very poor decisions, he questioned the all-out gun assault on her.
"It sounds to me like she freaked out because she was surrounded by men pointing guns at her and her baby," he said.
"I don't know what Miriam Carey's motivations were, but she sure doesn't fit the profile of a terrorist. I suspect she may have even had some mental problems. Maybe she was stressed out. There's a suggestion that she had a head injury several years ago that may have impaired her judgment. But since when do pre-existing medical conditions warrant a death penalty?" he wondered.
"I find it ironic that the government was partially shut down over a dispute about universal medical care when Washington police gunned down a young mother with mental health issues when they had her surrounded and on foot."
The sisters told "Today" that an investigation was under way, "but we still have a lot of questions."