No Criminal Charges in Miriam Carey Shooting at Capitol
No federal criminal civil rights or local charges will be filed against Capitol Police and Secret Service officers who were involved in a fatal shooting just blocks from the Capitol, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced Thursday.
After a review that included interviews of more than 60 witnesses, detailed examination of all crime scene evidence, ballistics reports, videos and photos of the events that unfolded on Oct. 3 between 2:13 p.m. and 2:20 p.m. — plus a review of the autopsy report for Miriam Carey — officials concluded that no criminal prosecutions would follow.
“After a thorough review of all the evidence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office concluded that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers who were involved in the shooting used excessive force or possessed the requisite criminal intent at the time of the events,” the office said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
The report came as “no surprise” to Eric Sanders, an attorney representing the Carey family in a civil suit against the Capitol Police and the Uniformed Division of the U.S. Secret Service.
Following a chat with Justice Department officials, Sanders told CQ Roll Call he intends to proceed with the wrongful death claim filed on behalf of the woman’s sister, Valarie Carey, seeking $75 million to compensate the family for its loss.
“They’re not saying it was justified,” said Sanders, who had called for immediate identification and termination of all officers, supervisors, managers and other related employees involved in the shooting.
The report from U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.’s office emphasized that under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt not only that an officer’s use of force was excessive, but also that the officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right.
“Proving ‘willfulness’ is a heavy burden, and means that it must be proven that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids,” the statement read. “Accident, mistake, fear, negligence and bad judgment do not establish such a criminal violation.”
Members of Congress have shown little appetite for proceeding with an investigation into the death of the 34-year-old dental hygienist who was shot outside the Capitol after a fast and furious car chase from the White House.
Appropriators on the House panel that determines Capitol Police funding grilled Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine about the circumstances surround the shooting during a March hearing. At the time, Dine said he could not go into details on the criminal aspect of the officers’ actions, as the incident was still under investigation.
Capitol Police did not immediately respond to questions about the Carey case or the report Thursday afternoon.
The release included a play-by-play of Carey’s confrontations with officers at three locations – once at the White House and twice near the Capitol — during the confusing, seven-minute episode that put Capitol Hill on lockdown:
At 2:13 p.m., Ms. Carey, 34, of Stamford, Conn., drove into a well-marked, restricted White House checkpoint at 15th and E Streets NW, without authorization and without stopping. After seeing Ms. Carey refuse to stop at the direction of two uniformed Secret Service officers, an off-duty U.S. Secret Service officer placed a metal bike rack in her path to block Ms. Carey’s exit. Ms. Carey then struck the bike rack, and the off-duty Secret Service officer who was standing behind it, knocking both the bike rack and the officer onto the ground. The incident at the White House checkpoint lasted about 30 seconds.
Ms. Carey then drove down Pennsylvania Avenue at speeds estimated at 40-80 mph, while weaving through traffic, and ignoring red lights.
Four minutes after leaving the White House checkpoint, Ms. Carey arrived at Garfield Circle, one of two traffic circles in front of the U.S. Capitol. She drove into the circle going against the flow of traffic, almost hitting another vehicle head-on. Ms. Carey then turned her vehicle towards the permanently-affixed black barriers that block vehicular traffic on the pedestrian walkway that leads to the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The pursuing law enforcement officers blocked Ms. Carey’s exit from the left, right and rear of her vehicle, attempted to open her locked doors, and issued multiple commands for her to exit the vehicle. Ms. Carey then put her vehicle in reverse and rammed the marked cruiser that was positioned behind her vehicle.
After ramming the cruiser, Ms. Carey drove forward onto the sidewalk, forcing officers to run out of Ms. Carey’s path to avoid being struck by her vehicle. It was at this point, as Ms. Carey drove on the sidewalk between the wall that borders the U.S. Capitol lawn and the tree boxes on the sidewalk, that two U.S. Secret Service police officers and a U.S. Capitol Police officer fired eight rounds at Ms. Carey. Investigators do not believe that Ms. Carey was hit by any of these rounds. Ms. Carey then drove back around Garfield Circle, against the flow of traffic, and headed towards Constitution Avenue. The incident at Garfield Circle lasted approximately 35 seconds.
The U.S. Capitol, the U.S. Supreme Court, and other buildings within the Capitol square were put on lockdown in response to the “shots fired” report. With continued reckless and evasive driving, Ms. Carey traveled along the north side of the Capitol and headed towards the Senate and House office buildings. A U.S. Capitol Police officer who was responding to the scene in his cruiser slammed into one of the barriers that had just been raised in response to the lockdown order, causing what sounded like an explosion that was later reported by witnesses. The cruiser was totaled and the officer had to be airlifted to the hospital for treatment of his injuries.
Approximately one minute after the shooting at Garfield Circle, Ms. Carey arrived at the manned U.S. Capitol Police Truck Interdiction Point at 2nd Street and Maryland Avenue NE. With raised barriers blocking her path, Ms. Carey made a sharp left, drove up a curb, over the center median, and struck an unmarked Supreme Court police officer’s vehicle that had stopped in front of the Hart office building. 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.
After the shooting and after Ms. Carey’s vehicle crashed into the kiosk and came to rest, the officers on the scene discovered that there was a young child in the vehicle. They carried the child from the car. The child, who was not seriously injured, was taken to a hospital.
Medical personnel arrived on the scene and attempted to revive Ms. Carey. She was transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Ms. Carey sustained five gunshot wounds to her neck and torso area, one of which was fatal. She was not under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol, and no weapon was recovered from inside her vehicle.