WASHINGTON – Nearly three months after an unarmed, young, black single mother with a one-year-old daughter in tow was gunned down in broad daylight by police on a crystal-clear autumn afternoon in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, a veil of official silence remains over the case.
The Secret Service, the Washington Metro Police and the Capitol Police have withheld virtually all details of the shooting from the family of Miriam Carey, a 34-year-old dental hygienist from Connecticut, and the public. Those details include forensics reports that would show how many times Carey was shot, her cause of death, the position of the body at the time of death, video and photos, multiple eyewitness accounts and an explanation as to why police believed deadly force was necessary to subdue her while she had her infant daughter with her.
No one has been charged in the case, which has been handed over to a branch of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department for investigation. The Metro police told WND it is standard procedure for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington to review officer-involved shootings. The attorney for the victim’s family has asked Holder to investigate the incident for possible civil rights violations, but has yet to receive a response.
A WND investigation shows at least seven security cameras in the immediate vicinity of the fatal police shooting Oct. 3, while a number of police cruiser dash-cams also likely recorded the incident as police surrounded Carey’s car. While cell phone cameras recorded the initial volley of shots fired by police on Carey’s car near the White House, none capturing the fatal shooting near the Capitol have surfaced. Officials won’t even confirm if video of the incident exists.
WND approached a guard shack, about two blocks from the Capitol dome, where Miriam Carey was shot dead after a chase from a White House checkpoint, and asked a U.S. Capitol police officer on duty a few, simple questions:
If a major crime such as a rape or murder were to happen within blocks of the Capitol, would there be video of it?
"Oh yeah," he answered, nodding his head vigorously.
What about the shooting of Miriam Carey, is there video of that?
"Yes," he said without hesitation, while adding he had not seen it personally.
Apparently no one has seen it, other than perhaps a few select members of law enforcement.
It may be understandable why police would be reluctant to release that video, as it might confirm what legal experts and civil libertarians from both left and right sides of the political spectrum have told WND, that they believe Carey was, in effect, murdered by police.
Did police murder Carey?
Renowned journalist and First Amendment expert Nat Hentoff told WND the evidence that officers killed recklessly was so strong, "[T]his is a classic case of police out of control and, therefore, guilty of plain murder."
Constitutional law expert John Whitehead, president and founder of the nonprofit civil-liberties organization the Rutherford Institute, agreed, telling WND that from what he'd seen, it looked like murder.
Political activist and former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack called it "sloppy" police work and saw "no justification whatsoever" for the use of deadly force against Carey.
Dan Bongino, former Secret Service agent and author of the New York Times bestseller "Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top-Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away From It All", was reluctant to second-guess the actions of law enforcement officers in a fast-moving and confusing situation and loath to evaluate their decisions in hindsight.
But even he felt the situation, involving Secret Service agents at the White House, could have been handled better and doubted that those involved, or their superiors, would dispute that.
Carey was shot to death by uniformed members of the Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police officers after a police chase that began at the White House and ended at a guard shack at Second Street and Constitution Avenue, two blocks from the Capitol.
Upon visiting the shooting location, WND easily identified seven security cameras in the immediate vicinity. The U.S. Capitol police sergeant on duty at first gave WND permission to shoot video from across the street. But after giving it further thought, officers asked WND not to published the video, and out of respect for their national security concerns, WND obliged.
There are a number of reasons civil libertarians doubt officers needed to shoot Carey to subdue her.
Contrary to media reports that she tried to ram a White House gate or barrier, the initial police report shows she never tried to ram anything, and merely tried to make a U-turn after having arrived at a checkpoint. Videos of that incident show police pointing guns directly at Carey.
Also contrary to media reports, there is no mention of Carey striking any officers with her black Nissan Infiniti. Video of that incident also contradicts the early media reports.
The police report also indicates she did not break any laws, until she suddenly found herself pursued by heavily armed officers shooting at her.
No one has been able to explain why police did not use non-lethal force in either attempting to stop her car with tire spikes or by shooting out the tires, or why officers did not try to subdue the unarmed woman with pepper spray or a taser, but instead chose to shoot the defenseless 34-year-old mother.
Carey's 14-month-old girl Erica was in the backseat as police shot at Carey at least seven times during the chase, as seen in a video recording. It is also not clear if officers removed the child from the car before shooting and killing her mother and, if so, why they didn't simply arrest Carey.
'Routine' stop mishandled?
Miriam Carey's sister, Valarie Carey, is a former New York City police officer, as is the attorney representing her family, Eric Sanders.
Sanders told WND he and Valarie believe law enforcement officials completely mishandled a simple "suspicious vehicle" car stop.
He maintained that such car stops are handled professionally by law enforcement officials all over the world every day without incident, including in other cities with so-called "high value targets," such as the Capitol and White House.
Sanders told WND he has not been able to obtain the "use of force" policies for the Secret Service or U.S. Capitol Police, pointing out the onus is on agents to justify their use of force.
The former police officer also noted that under old guidelines, before the Secret Service became a part of the Department of Homeland Security, the discharge of the agents' weapons would not have been justified, because the guidelines valued life over property.
WND asked Sanders, based on 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" due to "a whole host of safety reasons."
That's a violation of police protocols in almost every big city in the country, he said.
As for fears that Carey may have been carrying an explosive device, Sanders said that was all the more reason not to shoot at her.
'Why are you firing?'
Drawing upon her professional experience, Valarie Carey made perhaps the key point, that regardless of questions raised 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?"
Some have speculated that Carey simply came upon an unexpected police stop and panicked when quickly surrounded by heavily armed officers pointing guns at her.
For whatever reason, Miriam did not stop, and police decided to chase her.
WND asked Valarie Carey, given her experience as an NYPD sergeant, what she thought went 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."
Sanders thinks there may be another factor at play and has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the shooting.
He has requested a civil rights investigation because, he told WND, "Although we never overtly mentioned it, we believe race was a factor in the police decision to discharge their weapons."
Where's the video?
The investigation of the shooting has been handled by the Washington Metropolitan Police. When WND asked a spokeswoman when the nearly three-month-long investigation might be complete and the video made public, she said she could not comment on a case under investigation and that all the information had been turned over to the D.C. office of the U.S. attorney's office.
The spokeswoman also declined to answer a general question as to whether it was department policy not to release video of an officer-involved shooting while an investigation was underway.
WND easily found a half-dozen recent instances in which videos of officer-involved shootings were released while investigations were still underway, by police departments in such major cities as Philadelphia and Las Vegas. The spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C., declined to comment on specifics of the Carey investigation and would not confirm the office even has video of the shooting.
So, WND went searching elsewhere for video.
Authorities initially feared the incident was an act of terrorism, so it would seem logical that the National Security Agency might have monitored the chase and the shooting with its satellites.
But an NSA spokesman said it does not have video of the incident: "We are a foreign-intelligence agency." The NSA advised WND to check with the FBI or DHS.
An FBI spokeswoman claimed there is no satellite video of the incident, stating, "That did not happen in this case."
Also, the bureau would not confirm or deny the existence of dash-cam or security-cam videos of the shooting.
And a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment.