Police responding to scene of car chase that ended near the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Jewel Samad/AFP-Getty Images)
Police responding to scene of car chase that ended near the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Jewel Samad/AFP-Getty Images)

Police and media organizations in Washington, D.C., are trying to sort out just what led to a car chase that ended with officers shooting and killing a driver near the U.S. Capitol.

The Capitol and nearby congressional office buildings were briefly locked down, and passers-by dove for cover as officers confronted the unidentified female motorist. As Los Angeles station KPCC reports, one of those close to the shooting was California Sen. Barbara Boxer:

The shots were fired right outside Sen. Barbara Boxer’s office. Boxer was shaken.

“We were just sitting down starting to talk, and we heard this incredibly loud noise outside the window,” Boxer told KPCC. “Just in rapid succession — boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. … And then we knew something terrible had happened.

Boxer and her staff went into a stairwell and got those working upstairs to come down and stand in the stairwell, then went into their conference room with no windows, where they watched developments on TV during the lockdown.

“I can’t tell you how unnerving it is to be seriously a few feet away from a gun battle,” Boxer said. “It just… it’s so loud. I don’t think we’ll ever forget it.”

News reports say the unidentified driver approached a security checkpoint near the White House, then ignored Secret Service orders to stop and ran over a portable barricade. Here’s the Washington Post’s summary of what happened next:

The chase apparently stretched across downtown Washington: it started at the security barriers outside one icon, and ended at the barriers outside another.

It began near the White House, at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Oregon residents B.J. and Susan Campbell saw a black Infiniti driven by a woman heading west on Pennsylvania, into a security checkpoint. The driver went about 20 yards, B.J. Campbell said, before rapidly turning the car around at the concrete security barriers.

“The Secret Service guy was just having a cow,” B.J. Campbell said. “Yelling at her and banging on the car.” The Secret Service officers pulled a black metal gate into her path and she slowed to try to go around it. Then the agent moved the gate in front of her again.

At that point “she just gunned it,” B.J. Campbell said. “She ran the barricade down and the guy; knocked him up onto her hood. He rolled off into the street, and she tore off down Pennsylvania Avenue.” The whole encounter lasted about 20 seconds, he said.

A police officer was injured when his car crashed during the case.

The New York Times gives this account from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine:

Chief Dine said that the woman’s vehicle, a black Infiniti, also struck a police car on Capitol Hill before it crashed into a barricade. Shots were fired, the woman was struck and the authorities took her to a hospital.

A young child was found in the car, the authorities said. It was not clear whether the woman was armed when the authorities fired on her.

“We have no information that this is related to terrorism or is anything other than an isolated incident,” Chief Dine said.

A video clip played on cable networks showed police officers with their weapons drawn approaching the stopped vehicle outside the Capitol.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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