WASHINGTON — A woman shot and killed by police on Capitol Hill supposedly was a threat to public safety, but a review of the known facts shows it was the police who may have posed the greater threat to public safety.
It appears Miriam Carey never violated any law until police began pursuing her car. Officers, on the other hand, fired numerous shots at her in a crowded public space near the Capitol, as the video below shows.
Seeing the news reports of the Oct. 3 shooting, many Americans came away with the impression that a mentally unstable and dangerous woman rammed a gate at the White House, sped away and was eventually shot by police because she could have posed a security threat to the nation's capital.
But the official record raises numerous questions about that account, and the mainstream media have asked very few questions about the shooting death of Miriam Carey by police:
- Did she really ram a White House gate?
- Did she do anything illegal until police began pursuing her?
- Why didn't police try to Taser her instead of shooting her?
- Why didn't police shoot her tires instead of shooting into the car?
- If police feared she had an explosive device, why would they shoot at her?
- Was she really mentally unhinged, as claimed by some?
- Why did police shoot her at all?
'Why are you firing?'
The indisputable facts are that police shot and killed 34-year-old Miriam Carey after a car chase, and that her infant daughter, Erica, was in her vehicle.
Carey family attorney Eric Sanders has requested the Department of Justice launch a federal investigation into what happened and how the dental hygienist ended up dead.
WND spoke with Sanders and with Miriam's sister, Valarie Carey. Both she and Sanders are former officers with the New York City Police Department.
The big question, of course, is why police shot Miriam.
Drawing upon her professional experience, Valarie made perhaps the key point, that despite whatever questions have arisen about training, protocol and public safety, the officers at the scene ultimately had to decide for themselves how to best act responsibly.
"As an officer, you have to ask yourself, 'What is going on here?' No one is firing a weapon at you, so why are you firing?"
But, Valarie said Americans should know this case presents even bigger questions.
'We can't allow our civil liberties to be stripped'
"Everyone should realize we can't allow our civil liberties to be stripped in front of us. If my sister was traveling and came across a roadblock – we're not even sure it was a checkpoint, there was some training going on in the area – she should not have to be in fear of those sworn to protect us. And neither should we."
Sanders echoed those sentiments, saying, "The bottom line is that there's a potential civil-rights claim here. Because, how do you visit Washington, D.C., as a U.S. citizen and end up getting killed?"
"It's important for people to understand that just because a car, even it were driven recklessly ... you don't lose your rights in this country because people are fearful. You don't lose your rights because the police are apprehensive. If we start going down that road, we have a big problem," added the attorney.
Sanders said the fear of terrorism cannot be used to justify any and every action by law enforcement.
"Everything is terrorism, terrorism, terrorism .... and that's the answer for everything. That's not the answer for everything. You don't lose your rights because of terrorism. We still have a Constitution. If we don't start enforcing it we're all in trouble."
A soft-spoken Valarie was still clearly in mourning for her sister, but she also spoke as a patriot who feared for her country.
"The news cycle sort of died down once it became clear she was not a terrorist threat. The media should have reported an innocent and unarmed woman was killed by police," she said. "That's unacceptable. They cannot justify their actions. It was wrong, and America needs to know that."
Mishandled by the media
Sanders said the media mishandled the story from the start by getting the most basic facts wrong.
The headline on the ABC website read "Attempt to Ram White House Gate Ends With Conn. Woman Dead."
"The incident began at approximately 2:12 p.m. when a black Infiniti rammed a barrier outside the White House at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW," read the article.
NBC Washington's website reported, "Law enforcement authorities still don't know why a Connecticut woman tried to breach a barrier at the White House."
"The chase began at 2:12 p.m. when Ms. Carey, who was driving a black two-door Infiniti with Connecticut plates, tried to ram through a White House checkpoint at 15th and E Streets Northwest," reported the New York Times.
However, contrary to those reports, she never tried to ram a White House gate or a barrier, according to the affidavit filed by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.
"She didn't ram the gate. She didn't run anybody over. The affidavit doesn't say she ran anyone over. It doesn't say she tried to ram a gate. All that is nonsense that has been reported by the media. It's about time for people to really start doing their homework. Their (Metro Police) own affidavit says all this," pointed out Sanders.
And, in fact, the police report did not mention a White House gate, a barrier or any attempt to ram anything.
It described the location as "a vehicle checkpoint to the White House" and said the driver "refused to stop at the vehicle checkpoint and made a U-turn and began to flee."
The affidavit did say a Secret Service officer "attempted to block the vehicle with a bicycle rack, however, the vehicle pushed over the bicycle rack, knocking the officer to the ground."
"Making a U-turn is not illegal, not wanting go through a checkpoint is not illegal. Then the question is, why did a Secret Service person throw a bicycle rack at her car? That makes no sense," wondered Sanders.
"She didn't do anything but turn away from a checkpoint, which people all over the U.S. have a legal right to do. They don't have to go through a police checkpoint; they can turn around," he said.
Killed for a panic attack?
Some have speculated that Miriam simply came upon an unexpected police stop and panicked when quickly surrounded by heavily armed officers.
National Review's Mark Steyn wrote, "Ms. Carey does not appear to be guilty of any act other than a panic attack when the heavy-handed and heavier-armed palace guard began yelling at her."
For whatever reason, Miriam did not want to stop, and police decided to chase her car.
Valarie has previously said, “Deadly force was not necessary,” and that “They could have rammed the car or disabled the car.”
WND asked, given her experience as an NYPD sergeant, how did she think it all went so wrong?
She said her information is limited by not being able to see the dash-cam video, but based on what she's learned so far, "I believe the authorities allowed the situation to get out of control, and it could have been handled a lot differently."
"Possibly, there was a lack of communication from the first officer Miriam encountered all the way to those who fired upon her. Training and protocol seemed to have gone out the window."
'Very, very poor judgment'
So, WND asked, who should be held accountable: Those who pulled the triggers or those who trained them?
Valarie said there didn't seem to be any reason the officers actually had to pull out their firearms.
"Sometimes you must, but once drawn, you'd better be ready to use your firearm. But in this incident, they used very, very poor judgment. And this is something those officers will have to live with."
One recent report suggested a radio problem may have left Secret Service officers unable to communicate with Capitol Police, a factor that may have contributed to the chaos.
Valarie said, more likely, inexperience could have been an issue. She was concerned officers may have panicked, and she suggested they might not have ever been in such a situation.
"The more experienced an officer is, the better equipped that officer is to address the situation, even if there had been a problem with radio contact. If someone can't decide when to take someone's life, they should not be put in that position. "
'You can't shoot at a fleeing car'
WND asked Sanders, with his experience as a police officer, if he believed police should have shot out the tires on Miriam's car.
"No, there should be no shooting at all," he said. "They had no basis to shoot. You can't shoot at a fleeing car."
Sanders grew even more adamant, "There's no protocol allowing them to shoot at a moving car. It makes no legal sense or philosophical sense. There's a whole host of safety reasons. That's why you don't shoot at cars."
He said that's a violation of police protocols in most every big city in the country, and the New York Times reported, "Many police departments, including Washington’s, prohibit officers from firing at moving cars, even when the car is being used in a threatening manner."
The paper continued, "The Metropolitan Police rules say that no officer shall discharge a firearm 'at or from a moving vehicle unless deadly force is being used against the officer or another person.'"
Miriam was not armed and never fired shots at anyone that fateful day.
Was her car a deadly weapon?
But, was she using her car as a deadly weapon? That's the impression media were getting from authorities, as the Times reported, "A woman with a young child was shot to death after turning her vehicle into a weapon on Thursday afternoon, ramming her way through barriers outside the White House and on Capitol Hill."
"She had a car. A car is not a deadly weapon. I don't care what these people keep saying, I've been in law enforcement a long time, training with all these different agencies. We all know law enforcement training is cars are not weapons."
And the Metropolitan Police, which is conducting the official investigation into the incident, appears to agree with Sanders, as the Times notes the Metropolitan Police rules state, "[A] moving vehicle is not considered deadly force.' It is not clear whether the Secret Service or the Capitol Police have a similar policy."
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill congratulated police for shooting the unarmed mother with a 30-second standing ovation.
No choice but to shoot?
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., defended the officers in a speech on the Senate floor, calling the decision to shoot the woman “understandable” because the Capitol and the White House are often targets of attacks.
Terrance Gainer, the Senate sergeant-at-arms and former chief of the Capitol Police, told the Times the officer did the right thing,” because, “It’s not our typical car chase that starts out with some traffic stop." He told the Washington Post in 2005 that Capitol officers were trained to shoot a suspected bomber who refused to stop and be searched.
Many in the media echoed that line, with CNN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks insisting police had no choice but to shoot.
"You don't know if she has a bomb," he said. "You don't know if it's a terrorist attack. The officers just don't know."
Sanders found all of those arguments illogical.
"How do you shoot at a person who is unarmed? Sitting in a car? 'Oh, there could've been a bomb in the car.' That's more nonsense. Because if there is a bomb in the car and you are shooting in the car, you are endangering everybody! C'mon."
The attorney said they overreacted to something that is "handled by police everyday, all over the world."
"Washington, D.C., is no different than any other city. 'Oh, we have high-value targets.' Oh, nonsense," he said. "There are high-value targets in New York and many other cities. That doesn't mean the Constitution gets thrown out the window."
He again insisted there had been an overreaction to the threat of terrorism.
"We are under a siege mentality. For some reason, in this world, we believe that everybody is out to get us. It's like there's a big boogey man. And the police are responding the same way."
Killed for postpartum depression?
Once it became clear that Miriam had not been a terrorist, the media's search for a motive centered on her mental health.
ABC News reported, "Authorities said she had a history of mental health issues, and her mother told ABC News she suffered from postpartum depression."
Time Magazine didn't mince words with a headline that blared, "Capitol Car Chase Suspect Believed to Be Delusional, Emotionally Disturbed."
As evidence of this, Time cited an unidentified third-hand source, reporting that Carey "was said to be delusional and believed the president was communicating with her, according to an anonymous federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation who spoke to the Associated Press."
However, Time also reported, "Carey’s sisters said that she was being tapered off her medications under the supervision of her doctor, and that she was feeling fine."
National Review's Mark Steyn wrote, "[W]e are told Ms. Carey was 'mentally ill,' although she had no medications in her vehicle and those at her home back in Connecticut are sufficiently routine as to put millions of other Americans in the category of legitimate target."
Valarie also took exception to the depiction of her sister.
"The media tried to depict my sister as some kind of mentally ill person," she said. "For some reason, that makes people think it was sort of OK that she was shot. She was not mentally ill. She had postpartum depression. If that's a reason to kill a person, that's a very sad lesson."
If Valarie was saddened by the description, her attorney was enraged when asked if Miriam suffered from postpartum depression or some other mental illness.
"It's irrelevant! That has nothing to do with the police discharging their weapons," he said. "The inquiry is not looking into what she was suffering; the inquiry is looking into, why did the police pull the trigger? That's the subject of any such inquiry. It amazes me, and it's kind of frustrating in a lot of ways, because it's so easy for people to get fooled by a red herring."
The more he thought about it, the more upset he got.
"I don't care if she suffered from 15 mental conditions!" he declared. "And, by the way, police are trained to deal with those types of situations, too. So you can disregard that. We don't know. The only thing we know is that the police pulled the trigger."
And that's what really matters, said Sanders.
"They have to answer to why they pulled the trigger," he said. "That's what the Constitution says. That's what the law says. That's what they case law says."
Something else he found beside the point: Why did Miriam go to the White House?
"We don't know, but it's irrelevant," he said. "She's a U.S. citizen. She was there legally and, quite frankly, it doesn't matter. Unless something comes out that we don't know about, it really doesn't matter because she had a legal right to be there."
As to why police did not Taser Miriam instead of shooting and killing her, police are not answering questions until the investigation is completed.
When WND did ask D.C. police questions about the shooting, Metropolitan Police Department Communications Director Gwendolyn Crump replied:
"This case remains under investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department. The Internal Affairs Division is investigating this death. It should be noted that law enforcement agencies have different guidelines depending on their mission. Ultimately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will make the final determination."
It's also still unclear whether Miriam was shot inside her car or whether she exited the vehicle before police killed her.
The day after the shooting, the New York Times reported, "Ms. Carey managed to get out of the car, and was shot by several officers. According to a law enforcement official, she was not armed, and it was not known whether she presented an immediate danger."
That account seemed to be supported by eyewitness Patty Bills, who told CNN, "As soon as the child was pulled from the car is when the gunfire really let loose," and "I heard the gunshots, I saw the policemen shooting. It appeared someone got out and it looked like a rush of people running, so at that particular time you didn't know if there were more suspects involved."
However, Bills has now told WND that she, in fact, did not see Miriam exit her car.
Bills said everything was such a blur on the day it happened, she actually has a better recollection of the event now.
Although she did not remember saying, "It appeared someone got out," she is now certain she did not see a woman get out of the car.
The day after Sanders held a press conference announcing he was calling for the Justice Department to look into the death of Miriam Carey, the attorney was arrested.
The New York Post reported Sanders was arrested after a judge had decided the attorney had missed too many payments owed to a former employee. A state Division of Human Rights panel found Sanders and a partner wrongfully discriminated against Mary Rocco.
The panel awarded her $175,000 in 2010 after deciding Sanders fired her because she was pregnant.
When WND asked Sanders if he felt his arrest was an attempt to either silence or intimidate him, the attorney laughed loud and long.
"Of course I think it was! I can't prove it," he said. "I loved the timing of it – the day after our press conference. Exactly one day after I said don't trust the government."
Sanders insisted he has no debts and declared bankruptcy solely to fight this judgment.
"I am clean. That's the way I was as a cop, that's the way I am as an attorney," he said. "I was a police officer in New York. I've never bee arrested in my life. The questions is, why was I picked up?"
'We're serious people'
While Sanders finds his arrest fishy, he gives no credence to a wild report claiming President Obama ordered the killing of Miriam because he had fathered her child.
Sanders said it was not true that Valarie had asked for a paternity test.
"Absolutely not. I've asked for a retraction, and so far they haven't gotten back to me. I'm pretty annoyed about that," he said. "That's not what we said. We are not game-players. We're serious people. We don't do those kinds of things."
But, he said his experience as a police officer had led him to understand that sometimes even those dedicated to serve and to protect do things that are hard to understand, or even believe.
"The bottom line is, cops do a lot of outrageous things. They really do. The public really has no clue as to what is really going on. You really have to be from that (police) culture to really understand what they are doing."
And that's why, he says, you can't believe everything you see in the news.
"Quite frankly, they are underreporting a lot of things. It's not as isolated as people think it is; it's a really big problem. It's just that cops won't speak up about it. Let me tell you, the blue wall of silence is serious – hurting other cops and other outrageous things – that really does happen."
WND has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the forensics report that has yielded no results.
A WND reporter on the scene immediately after the shooting found answers hard to come by and now finds little has changed, two months later.
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCGarth