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Driver killed in Capitol Hill car chase was depressed mother

Miriam Carey, a dental hygienist from Connecticut, was unarmed when she led police on a high-speed chase.

Law enforcement personnel gather around a police vehicle that was involved in a high-speed car chase that put the Capitol on lockdown on Thursday. Mark Wilson /Getty Images / AFP
Law enforcement personnel gather around a police vehicle that was involved in a high-speed car chase that put the Capitol on lockdown on Thursday. Mark Wilson /Getty Images / AFP

WASHINGTON // The mother of a woman who was shot to death by police after trying to breach a barrier at the White House said her daughter was suffering from postpartum depression.

The woman set off a high-speed car chase that put the Capitol on lockdown on Thursday and caused a fresh panic the city where a gunman killed 12 people two weeks ago.

Miriam Carey, 34, of Stamford, Connecticut, was travelling with her 1-year-old daughter who avoided serious injury and was taken into protective custody.

Carey’s mother, Idella Carey, told ABC News that her daughter began suffering from postpartum depression after giving birth to her daughter, Erica, last August.

“She had postpartum depression after having the baby” she said. “A few months later, she got sick. She was depressed. ... She was hospitalised.”

Ms Carey said her daughter had “no history of violence” and she didn’t know why she was in Washington. She said she thought Carey was taking Erica to a doctor’s appointment in Connecticut.

Miriam Carey was a dental hygienist. Her boss, Dr Steven Oken, described her as a person who was “always happy”.

“I would never in a million years believe that she would do something like this,” he said. “It’s the furthest thing from anything I would think she would do, especially with her child in the car. I am floored that it would be her.”

Thursday’s harrowing chase unfolded between two national landmarks, briefly shuttered the chambers where federal legislators were debating how to end a government shutdown.

Police said there appeared to be no direct link to terrorism and there was no indication Carey was even armed. Kim Dine, the Capitol police chief whose officers have been working without pay as a result of the shutdown, called it an “isolated, singular matter”.

Still, tourists, congressional staff and even some senators watched anxiously as a caravan of law enforcement vehicles chased a black Infiniti down Constitution Avenue outside the Capitol and as officers with high-powered firearms canvassed the area.

The House and Senate both abruptly suspended business, a legislator’s speech cut off in mid-sentence, as the Capitol police broadcast a message over its emergency radio system telling people to stay in place and move away from the windows.

Carey’s car at one point had been surrounded by police cars and she managed to escape, careening around a roundabout and past the north side of the Capitol. Video showed police pointing firearms at her car before she rammed a Secret Service vehicle and continued driving. The Metropolitan police chief Cathy Lanier said police shot and killed her a block north-east of the historic building.

The FBI served a search warrant in connection with the investigation and police cordoned off a condominium building in Stamford and the surrounding neighbourhood in the shoreline city.

Eric Bredow, a banker, said police told him the suspect in the car chase was one of his neighbours.

“I see the door to my building open and the FBI bomb squad in front of it,” said Mr Bredow, who said helicopters were flying overhead when he first went home.

The chain-of-events began when Carey sped onto a driveway leading to the White House, over a set of barricades. When she could not get through a second barrier, she spun the car in the opposite direction, flipping a Secret Service officer over the hood of the car as she sped away, said BJ Campbell, a tourist from Portland, Oregon.

“This wasn’t no accident. She was not a lost tourist,” Mr Campbell said later near the scene that had been blocked off with police tape.

Then the chase began.

“The car was trying to get away. But it was going over the median and over the curb,” said Matthew Coursen, who was watching from a cab window when the Infiniti sped by him. “The car got boxed in and that’s when I saw an officer of some kind draw his weapon and fire shots into the car.”

One Secret Service member and a 23-year veteran of the Capitol Police were injured. Officials said they are in good condition and expected to recover.

The Republican congressman Michael McCaul, who said he was briefed by the Homeland Security Department, said he did not think Carey was armed. “There was no return fire.”

A few senators between the Capitol and their office buildings said they heard the shots.

“We heard three, four, five pops,” said the senator Bob Casey. Police ordered Mr Casey and nearby tourists to crouch behind a car for protection, then hustled everyone into the Capitol.

Others witnessed the incident, too.

“There were multiple shots fired and the air was filled with gunpowder,” said Berin Szoka, whose office at a technology think tank overlooks the shooting scene.

The shooting comes two weeks after a mentally disturbed employee terrorised the Navy Yard with a shotgun, leaving 13 people dead including the gunman.

Before the disruption, legislators had been trying to find common ground to end a government shutdown. The House had just finished approving legislation aimed at partly lifting the government shutdown by paying National Guard and Reserve members.

Capitol police said they were working without pay as the result of the shutdown. A spokesman for the House majority leader Eric Cantor said a bill to pay them was under consideration.

* Associated Press