A woman was shot dead by police on Capitol Hill on Thursday afternoon after a dramatic car chase that began near the White House. A child said to be between 12 and 18 months of age and reportedly the daughter of the woman, was in the car when police opened fire.
An eyewitness video that surfaced showed a black Acura sedan cornered by multiple police officers at the circle who held up their handguns towards the driver inside. In the video the driver however refused to stop or exit the car, instead turning it around and speeding away. Multiple shots, apparently fired by police, can then be heard.
At a press conference a few hours after the incident District of Columbia Chief of Police Cathy Lanier said that the driver of the car being pursued by police was pronounced dead after the shooting. Chief Kim Dine of the U.S. Capitol Police said that this was an “isolated incident” and there was “no nexus to terrorism.”
Officials said that the child was taken away from the scene to safety by an officer. CNN showed footage of a police officer carrying a young child, possibly of African-American, Asian or Latino descent, into a police car.
Earlier the Associated Press asked Congressman Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, who was briefed by the Department of Homeland Security, if the woman was armed. He replied: “I don't think she was. There was no return fire.”
Within moments of the news breaking Capitol police announced an “active shooter” situation and issued a "Shelter in Place" order. Eyewitnesses reported hearing “ten to twelve shots” fired, some adding that they had seen the car riddled with bullet holes. One hour later, however, an all-clear was declared and the lockdown was lifted.
Early accounts backed up by officials briefing media suggested that at around 2:18 pm (local time) the suspect in a black “unauthorised vehicle tried to gain access to an outer perimeter checkpoint,” and attempted to drive past the vehicle barriers erected near15th Street Northwest and Pennsylvania, near the U.S. Treasury and steps away from the White House.
After an “altercation” then took place between the suspect and the Secret Service “blocking access” at the scene the driver of the black car ran through numerous red lights and drove towards the Capitol buildings, resulting in “multiple crime scenes,” Chief Lanier said.
At some point during the ensuing car chase, “the use of force was authorised,” and several officials said that when such authorisation was issued “police did not know there was a child in the car.”
However the eyewitness video aired on multiple channels and available on the internet clearly shows police with handguns immediately outside the car, at a proximity at which it would have been difficult to not notice a child in the car.
According to statements by Chief Dine and others the driver rammed into barriers and also hit a police car near the Hart Senate Office Building, injuring a total of two police officers. At least one of them was taken away from the scene by helicopter to be given medical attention.
Although officers at the briefing refused to release any further information on the suspect, they said, “It does not appear that this was an accident” and said that the officers at the scene had “acted appropriately.” Chief Lanier said that authorities had to notify the next of kin of the suspect before the release of further information could be considered.
Officials indicated that President Barack Obama had been briefed on the situation and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials were also involved. Chief Dine added that the car had Connecticut license plates and the FBI and Secret Service were already executing a search warrant in that state.