WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – A dramatic car chase through the streets of Washington from near the White House to the U.S. Capitol ended in gunfire yesterday when law enforcement officers shot and killed the driver as lawmakers and aides huddled in a lockdown.
The identity of the driver – a woman – was not released. “The suspect in the vehicle was struck by gunfire and at this point has been pronounced (dead),” Washing-ton’s police chief, Cathy Lanier, told reporters.
Driving a black car, the 34-year-old woman rammed security barricades “at the very outer perimeter of the White House,” U.S. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said. Then the car, carrying a 1-year-old girl, raced up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol where Congress was in session.
Police gave chase and fired at the car. It finally came to a halt near the Capitol building, said Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine.
“My understanding is there was a 1-year-old child in the car,” Dine said. “I believe one of our officers rescued the child,” who was taken to a hospital.
The incident rattled Washington just three weeks after a government contractor opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the Capitol, killing 12 people and wounding three others before he was shot to death by police.
Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, told CNN that officials believe the woman driving the car in Thursday’s incident may have had mental health problems.
“I got that from multiple sources – that they think she may have had some mental health issues,” he said. “Obviously the way she responded at the gate near the White House and then turning around and hitting Secret Service.”
The woman was a resident of Connecticut and the girl in the car was her daughter, McCaul said.
When the shooting erupted, lawmakers were trying to find a solution to a budget impasse that partially shut down the U.S. government this week. The Capitol was locked down for about an hour during the incident. Lawmakers were told to shelter in place on the floor of the House. Outside, some tourists were frightened.
“I was just eating a hot dog over here and I heard about four or five gunshots, and then a swarm of police cars came in wailing their sirens,” said Whit Dabney, 13, who was visiting Washington from Louisville, Kentucky, and heard the shots a couple of blocks away.
Witness Travis Gilbert said several police cars chased the black sedan at high speed toward the Capitol.
“They ran all the red lights. It was a very dangerous situation,” Gilbert said.
Two officers were hurt in yesterday’s incident. One was a Secret Service officer who was struck by the suspect’s car outside the White House, Donovan said.
The other was a Capitol Police officer whose car struck a barricade during the mid-afternoon chase. It ranged over about a mile and a half and lasted just a few minutes, officials said.