WASHINGTON – The parallels are stunning.
It’s not just the similarities between the two incidents separated by three-and-a-half years: two women shot at by federal police after failed traffic stops in crowded areas packed with tourists near the U.S. Capitol.
It is the fact that, in both instances, U.S. Capitol Police violated their own policies on the use of force and vehicle pursuits.
Both shootings appear unjustified.
The key difference? One woman lived, the other didn’t.
“Years later, this again proves the United States Capitol Police are just as poorly trained, undisciplined and reckless today as in 2013,” Eric Sanders, the attorney for the family of Miriam Carey, recently told WND.
WND has done more than 50 investigative stories on Carey’s death at the hands of federal officers on Oct. 3, 2013. The story of her deadly shooting is detailed in full in WND Book’s, “Capitol Crime: Washington’s Cover-Up of the Killing of Miriam Carey.”
The recent incident to which Sanders referred happened at 9:20 a.m. on March 29 when, according to police, officers attempted a traffic stop at First Street and Independence Avenue, at a guard booth near the Rayburn House Office Building and the Botanic Garden.
Officers said they tried to stop 20-year-old Taleah Everrett because she was driving in an “an erratic and aggressive” manner. A Capitol Police spokesperson said officers tried to stop her car but she made a U-turn and nearly struck several officers who were on foot, then struck another vehicle.
Then police shot at her.
Everett’s car was blocked by a raised concrete barrier, and she was arrested unharmed. A photograph showed two bullet holes in the driver’s side of the car’s windshield.
The woman’s family said she is mentally ill and has been unable to get needed treatment. Regardless of the reason she did not stop, Capitol Police violated their own policies in both chasing her car and shooting at her.
WND knows those policies were violated because the same pattern took place in the Carey case.
One year ago, WND obtained and published the secret, although not classified, documents detailing U.S. Capitol Police policy that show that to be the case.
The documents show:
- Officers are permitted to use deadly force only when a life is threatened or in danger of serious injury.
- It is not permissible to use deadly force merely to prevent a suspect from escaping.
- Police may conduct a vehicle chase only of a violent felon, or someone suspected of committing a violent felony.
- Officers must decide whether the danger to the public is more important than capturing the suspect.
From the evidence in published reports, it appears police should not have chased Everett because she was not a “violent felon, or someone suspected of committing a violent felony.”
They shouldn’t have shot at her merely to keep her from escaping. And no one’s life was apparently “threatened or in danger of serious injury.”
Similarly, the facts in the Carey case all indicate Capitol Police made a grave mistake in chasing and killing her.
“Years later, this again proves the United States Capitol Police are just as poorly trained, undisciplined and reckless today as in 2013,” said Sanders.
“There is nothing in the policies of the United States Capitol Police that authorizes shooting at a so-called ‘fleeing vehicle’ for committing an alleged traffic infraction,” he added.
“Frankly,” Sanders concluded, “the police’s poor response needlessly escalated this interaction, jeopardizing the public safety to soothe their bruised egos just as in the Miriam Iris Carey shooting. At least in this case, thankfully the driver survived.”
Perhaps the most revealing fact in the documents WND obtained: Neither the Capitol Police Use of Force guidelines nor the Vehicular Pursuit policy says a vehicle can be considered a deadly weapon (which is also true of the policies of most major metropolitan police departments, including the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police).
That fact is relevant because officers claimed they shot and killed Carey in self-defense.
But Carey was unarmed.
If her car was not a weapon, then the officers’ lives couldn’t have been considered endangered, by the Capitol Police Department’s own legal standards.
The policies, kept from the public, were provided by an anonymous employee of the Capitol Police Department who was upset with the department’s handling of the killing of Carey, which the whistleblower characterized as a murder.
The policies were sent to Carey family attorney Sanders, who provided them to WND.
Although kept secret, the policies are not classified, but labeled merely “law enforcement sensitive.”
WND did not publish the documents, only the information contained within them relevant to the Carey case.
Carey is the unarmed, black, single mother who – with her 1-year-old daughter in tow – was chased and gunned down by federal agents in the heart of the nation’s capital, after apparently doing nothing more than making a wrong turn at the White House on Oct. 3, 2013.
Police and the media had reported:
- Carey used her car to ram a White House gate.
- Officers tried to stop her from entering White House grounds.
- Officers shot and killed her in self-defense.
But WND discovered and reported:
- Carey did not ram any gates.
- She did not try to enter the White House.
- She did not violate any laws.
- She was unarmed.
- She was shot in the back.
Two U.S. Capitol Police officers and two Secret Service agents fired a total of 26 bullets at Carey in two volleys. Eight of the bullets were fired at Garfield Circle, 18 were shot at a Capitol Police guard post at 200 Constitution Ave., in between the Hart Senate Office building and a then-vacant lot adjacent to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Three shots hit her in the back, one in the arm, and one just below her left ear.
Capitol Police policy on the use of force does allow an officer to use deadly force if he or she feels their own life is in danger:
“An officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that the action is in defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury.”
And, according to the police report obtained by WND, that is the claim made by the first officer who fired at Carey.
Under the heading “Preliminary Investigative Report Concerning the Use of Force” in the police report, a statement read: “The suspect then drove south on the sidewalk of Garfield Circle. In fear for his life, USCP Officer (redacted) discharged his service pistol several times at the suspect’s vehicle as she fled the scene.”
However, video shot by a news crew at Garfield Circle clearly shows the officers’ lives were not in danger when they fired, because Carey had already driven well past them.
They shot at her from the back, not as she was approaching them.
In fact, the audio track of the video vividly demonstrates Carey was no longer near the officers when the shots are heard.
Additionally, according to the police report, a witness recalled how “as the car is driving away[,] the police fire at the vehicle.”
According to that witness, Carey was not driving toward the officers when they shot at her, but away from them.
There’s also documentation showing that officers’ lives were not endangered at the second shooting scene, evidence provided by the Justice Department itself, in the form of photographs.
The following is is the official version of events, and the shooting on Constitution, in the statement issued by the Justice Department on July 10, 2014:
“After ignoring multiple commands given by officers who were running towards her vehicle with guns drawn, Ms. Carey revved her engine and then reversed her vehicle and drove directly at a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was approaching Ms. Carey’s vehicle from behind. As the U.S. Capitol Police officer ran towards the median to avoid being struck by Ms. Carey’s vehicle, he and another officer from the U.S. Secret Service (who also had fired shots at the Garfield Circle location) started firing. The two officers fired nine rounds each. Twenty seconds after Ms. Carey had arrived at the 2nd and Maryland location, her vehicle crashed into the kiosk and came to rest. Ms. Carey was unconscious at this time, and did not get out of the vehicle. No additional rounds were fired by officers after the crash.”
Here is a sequence of still photographs at that scene, provided by the Justice Department.
The first one shows Carey crossing the median after the raised barriers in front of her had blocked her path:
Carey’s path is then blocked by a squad car:
Officers appear in front and back of Carey’s car with guns drawn, possibly firing. Their positions would be consistent with bullet holes in Carey’s car:
Carey shifts into reverse, but the officer behind her appears to easily move out of her way:
The officer who was behind her is now to her side, safely out of harm’s way, but apparently fires to her head, anyway. He is in position to deliver a shot consistent with what the autopsy described as the mortal wound:
Neither officer appears to be in danger.
But, still, they shot and killed Carey.
The Capitol Police policy on use of force even makes a special point of making officers aware that they must not shoot if the suspect poses no threat:
“NOTE: The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tennessee v. Garner states that the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. Officers cannot shoot a fleeing felon who poses no threat to the safety of the officer(s) or others.”
Why did officers go to such extreme lengths to stop Carey? It is conceivable they could have thought she was a threat to others if they had received erroneous information abut her, initially.
Officers who spoke with the press were under the initial impression Carey had rammed a security barrier at the White House and run over an officer.
If pursuing officers thought Carey had injured an officer and tried to break into the White House, that might explain why they chased her with such zeal and refused to let her go on her way.
It is possible the pursuing officers received bad information, perhaps from the radio dispatcher, and it could have set the entire tragic chain of events in motion.
But, despite what police may have initially been told or believed, as WND has conclusively and repeatedly documented, Secret Service agents did not stop Carey from trying to enter the White House – they tried to prevent her from leaving.
And the only barrier Carey struck was a bike rack an off-duty officer dragged in front of her car to try to prevent her from entering the street and departing the White House.
The Capitol Police Use of Force also policy declares:
“Discharging a firearm at or from a moving vehicle will be governed by this use of force policy and is prohibited if it presents an unreasonable risk to the officer(s) or others.”
Based on material WND obtained by suing the Justice Department, there is ample evidence that officers put many members of the public in grave danger, particularly by shooting at her car in Garfield Circle.
According to the police report, 30 bystanders were in Garfield Circle when police fired, and they scrambled and ducked for cover as shots rang out.
But potentially hundreds of people were also within range of the gunshots.
Using the available evidence as a guide, a WND map shows where the officers were, the position of Carey’s car and an estimated range of fire in which the bullets may have traveled.
These are the distances of heavily populated areas from Garfield Circle, including tourist spots, government buildings and crowded streets.
- 0 feet to parking lot
- 0 feet to First Street
- 200 feet to Botanic Garden
- 300 feet to Independence Avenue
- 400 feet to Botanic Garden Park
- 400 feet to Rayburn House Office Building
- 500 feet to the Department of Health and Human Services
- 650 feet to the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial
- 700 feet to Voice of America
- 800 feet to I-395
- 800 feet to the Thomas P. Oneill Jr. Federal Building
- 1,000 feet to the Ford House Office Building
- 1,100 feet to the Federal Center Metro Station
- 1,500 feet to NASA
The Capitol Police’s General Policy on Vehicular Pursuits states officers may chase a suspect only if that person is suspected of committing a violent felony:
“When operating an authorized USCP pursuit vehicle with emergency devices activated, sworn employees may engage in pursuit of a vehicle only to affect the arrest or prevent the escape of a person who has committed a violent felony, has attempted to commit a violent felony in the employee’s presence, or a violent felony has been committed and the employee has probable cause to believe the person he/she is attempting to apprehend has committed the felony. The felony must involve an actual or threatened attack which the employee has probable cause to believe could result in death or serious bodily injury.”
Nothing in the police report cited any laws Carey broke at the White House.
The application for the search warrant for Carey’s car and apartment, contained in that report, never accused her of violating any laws at all.
An affidavit filed by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department in support of the search warrant merely accused Carey of violating “several traffic regulations.”
Furthermore, nothing in the July 10, 2014, Justice Department statement exonerating officers said she committed any crimes to instigate the chase.
The Capitol Police policy guidelines on whether to continue a pursuit state:
“The object of any police pursuit is to apprehend a law violator without causing unnecessary peril to the suspects and employees involved, or to the persons or property of bystanders. With that in mind, when determining whether a pursuit should be initiated or continued, the sworn employee must balance the danger to the public by allowing the suspect to escape with the danger to the public by continuing the pursuit.”
All of which begs the question: Why didn’t they just let her go?
What threat outweighed the danger to the public?
“Since October 3, 2013,” said Sanders, “the Carey family remains hopeful one day the United States government will publicly disclose all documents related to the Miriam Iris Carey shooting and hold officers criminally and civilly accountable for violating her civil rights. Maybe, just maybe, the Trump administration will do just that.”