(This is Part II of a three-part series on new evidence WND has obtained from the Department of Justice in the investigation into the shooting death of Miriam Carey by federal officers. Read Part I, “Secret Service covered toddler in glass and blood,” and Part III, “Was unarmed woman trapped when cops shot her dead?” )
WASHINGTON – The presidency of James Garfield lasted a mere 200 days, cut short by an assassin’s bullet in 1881.
The life of unarmed, suburban mother Miriam Carey was cut short at age 34, felled by a barrage of bullets fired by federal officers in 2013.
So, it may be a bit ironic she was fired upon at Garfield Circle, the memorial to the 20th president.
As tragic as her death proved to be, new evidence shows an even greater tragedy may have been only narrowly averted.
“The public was definitely endangered by the officers’ willful and reckless actions,” Carey family attorney Eric Sanders told WND.
WND has devoted more than 30 articles to investigating whether the deadly shooting of the unarmed woman was justified.
The government watchdog group Judicial Watch recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of WND to force the Department of Justice to comply with another FOIA, requesting additional information in the Carey case investigation.
WND is now revealing new information provided by the Justice Department.
In the first part of this three-part series, WND investigated whether officers recklessly endangered the life of Carey’s daughter, strapped into a child seat in the backseat, when they shot at the back of Carey’s car.
Another question officials have never answered is whether officers recklessly endangered the public with the 26 bullets they fired on Capitol Hill that day.
Eight of the bullets were fired at Garfield Circle, 18 were shot at a U.S. Capitol Police guard post in the 100 block of Constitution Ave, in between the Hart Senate Office building and a vacant lot adjacent to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, D.C., (a division of the Justice Department) on July 10, 2014, said there was “insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights or local charges against officers from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police who were involved in the fatal shooting of Miriam Carey on Oct. 3, 2013, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol.”
But the statement did not reveal why the shooting was justified. Nor did it address the question of whether the officers had put the public in danger by firing so many times in such crowded areas.
A statue of Garfield stands in the center of the traffic circle at the intersection of Maryland Avenue and First Street in Washington, D.C.
The circle is located at the base of Capitol Hill, at the edge of the National Mall and bordered by the Capitol Reflection Pool, the Capitol Building Tours Ticket Booth, a parking lot and, behind that, the United States Botanic Garden.
It is in the heart of a heavily populated area where tourist buses deposit sightseers with clockwork regularity, and it offers a stunning view of the Capitol, some 800 feet up the hill.
On that fateful October day two years ago, a veritable squadron of police cars followed Carey from the White House to Garfield Circle, where uniformed Secret Service agents and U.S. Capitol Police officers first tried to shoot and kill her, but it has never been clear why.
It’s also not clear where all the bullets they shot at Garfield Circle landed.
The mainstream media reported Carey had tried to ram a barricade at the White House, as though she had tried to forcibly enter, then sped away. But neither turned out to be true.
The New York Times, NBC and ABC News all reported that Carey tried to ram a White House gate or barrier.
- The New York 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.”
- NBC reported: “Law enforcement authorities still don’t know why a Connecticut woman tried to breach a barrier at the White House, setting off a high-speed car chase that put the Capitol on lockdown and ended with her being shot dead by police.”
- ABC reported: “A woman believed to be a dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn., was shot dead by police today after allegedly attempting to ram the White House gates and leading authorities on a high-speed chase to the U.S. Capitol, officials said.”
In fact, Carey never attempted “to ram the White House gates.”
At 2:13 p.m. on Oct. 3, 2013, she did turn her black Nissan Infiniti into the White House guard post at 15th and E streets NW, some three blocks from the actual White House, but it appears clear she did so by mistake because she immediately made a quick U-turn and proceeded to leave.
Secret Service guards, whose job it is prevent unauthorized people from entering the White House grounds, apparently didn’t see her enter because she wasn’t stopped. And then, for a still-unexplained reason, they tried to stop her from leaving.
An off-duty Secret Service agent, who appeared to have been passing by, dragged a portable gate (sometimes described in the police report as a bicycle rack) in front of Carey’s car and leaned on it, to try to prevent her from leaving.
He was in civilian clothes and carrying a cooler. There is no evidence he identified himself as a law enforcement officer when he tried to stop her.
According to a witness at the White House who was a visitor from Australia, Carey tried to avoid hitting the gate and the off-duty officer.
But when she tried to drive around the gate, he moved it right back in front of her.
The witness said:
“A male was pulling a gate in front of the vehicle to keep the vehicle in the area. The vehicle attempted to flee the area but the man pulled the gate back in front of the vehicle. The vehicle then hit the gate knocking this man to the ground.”
Even the police description of Carey’s encounter with the off-duty officer confirms Carey did not hit the officer; she hit the gate, which “spun around” and hit him.
Under the document titled Metropolitan Police Department Incident Summary Sheet, the synopsis read: “The United States Secret Service police officer attempted to block the vehicle with a bicycle rack; however, the vehicle pushed over the bicycle rack, which spun around knocking the officer over.”
What precisely happened could have been verified if the DOJ had provided video of the encounter at the guard post, but the department, without explanation, failed to include that key bit of evidence (among the many videos from traffic cameras showing little more than traffic) provided in response to the FOIA.
And, for still unexplained reasons, once Carey departed the guard post, federal officers pursued her car and shot the unarmed woman dead a few blocks from the Capitol.
Carey also did not attempt to flee, according to the police report.
In fact, a witness visiting from Australia quoted in the report said she believed the first thing Carey did upon leaving the White House guard post was stop at a red light.
The witness also said Carey departed the White House “at an average speed.”
And, despite the Justice Department’s assertion that “Ms. Carey then drove down Pennsylvania Avenue at speeds estimated at 40-80 mph,” the Washington Post calculated her average speed from the White House to Garfield Circle was 19.5 mph, given it took her four minutes to cover the 1.3 miles.
Although the Justice Department did not provide WND with video of Carey’s encounters with officers at the White House or on Constitution Avenue (where she was fatally wounded), there is a publicly available video of the incident at Garfield Circle taken by a news crew that happened to be filming in that direction at the time.
That video shows much of what happened at Garfield Circle, including two key points:
- Carey was not driving toward officers when they fired, despite the account of one who said he shot at her out of fear for his life.
- Officers fired in the direction of an untold number of bystanders.
Under the heading “Preliminary Investigative Report Concerning the Use of Force,” one of the documents delivered to WND shows one of the officers who opened fire on Carey at Garfield Circle, perhaps the first officer to shoot, was a member of the Capitol Police, or USCP.
It reads: “The suspect then drove south on the sidewalk of Garfield Circle. In fear for his life, USCP (Capitol Police) Officer (redacted) discharged his service pistol several times at the suspect’s vehicle as she fled the scene.”
However, the video shot by a news crew at Garfield Circle clearly demonstrates she was driving away from the officers well before they fired.
In fact, the audio track of the video also demonstrates Carey was no longer even near the officers, and seemingly a safe distance away, when the shots are heard.
Video of the Garfield Circle shootings taken by news crew:
The video also shows the location of officers when they fired, on the East side of Garfield Circle.
Carey’s car slips out of view as the shots ring out, then reappears on the South side of the circle. But officers can be seen shooting in a southerly direction, as the car moved first away from them, then from their left to right.
Nothing in the police reports indicates where any of the bullets landed, except one.
A police map shows a “Strike Mark,” likely indicating where a bullet was found, near a bench on the Southeast side of the circle.
The words “Strike Mark,” circled in red by WND, can be seen on the lower right side of the following hand-drawn police map:
The police report said an officer saw two people on a bench. There are two benches on the Southeast side of Garfield Circle, so it is not clear just how close the bullet may have come to them, but, it would appear, considerably close. One bench is closer to the East side of the circle. The other, the one closest to the bullet hole, is a few feet away, on the Southeast side.
What happened to the seven other bullets?
That information is not in the documents provided to WND, but they were fired in the direction of a number of people.
Perhaps miraculously, no bystanders were hurt by gunfire.
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 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
Several people in, or near, Garfield Circle had reason to fear for their lives. But so did potentially hundreds of people within range of the gunshots.
The people on the bench were at virtual point-blank range from the officers.
So was anyone else in Garfield Circle. The police report said one such person, who was close enough to see the people on the bench, “dove on the ground for protection” when he heard the gunshots.
Another nearby witness told police “she fell to the ground once the shooting began.”
People in the parking lot adjacent to the circle were not much farther away, and, possibly, in the line of fire.
At least one person in the parking lot ducked when the shots rang out.
According to the police report, that witness, who had come to town to see a hockey game, described how: “[A]s the car is driving away the police fire at the vehicle. (Redacted) reported that he then dropped behind a vehicle.”
Note that he also said officers fired as the car was “driving away,” not toward officers.
Just behind the parking lot is the Botanic Garden, a popular tourist destination.
To the east of the garden is First Street, which runs just 300 feet to heavily trafficked Independence Avenue.
On the corner of First and Independence is the Rayburn Office Building, the workplace of 169 members of Congress and thousands of their staff members and other federal employees.
To the east of Rayburn is where Interstate-395 ducks under Capitol Hill through a tunnel.
To the west of that, and right behind the Botanic Garden, are the Department of Health and Human Services and the Voice of America office buildings.
Behind those buildings are the Oneill Federal Building, a subway station, the Ford House Office building and NASA.
So, the officers may have shot in the direction of the people on the bench, the Rayburn House Office, First Street, Independence Avenue, a parking lot, the Botanical Garden, an interstate highway, the Department of Health or even all of these locations.
They were all in the immediate vicinity.
And the officers’ own lives were not in danger at the time.
The underlying question: Were they justified in doing so?
Were they justified in endangering the public to stop an unarmed, suburban mother from going on her way – all because she refused to stop for an unidentified man in civilian clothes who was carrying a cooler and threw a bike rack in front of her car?
The Department of Justice has yet to answer.
Follow Garth Kant @DCgarth