Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 26, 2014

Congress Takes Hands-Off Approach to Miriam Carey Shooting

shooting009 100313 440x292 Congress Takes Hands Off Approach to Miriam Carey Shooting

Members of Congress have no interest in investigating Capitol Police actions relating to the Oct. 3 shooting and police car crash on Constitution Avenue. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Release of the final autopsy report for Miriam Carey, the 34-year-old dental hygienist who was shot outside the Capitol on Oct. 3 after a fast and furious car chase from the White House, has renewed calls for action from an attorney for her family.

Six months after the shooting, with a wrongful death claim filed against the Capitol Police and Secret Service seeking $75 million in compensation, New York-based attorney Eric Sanders is calling on Congress to “use its legislative powers” to investigate the confusing series of events.

But spokespeople for the committees with jurisdiction over the Capitol Police and for law enforcement declined to comment, aside from saying there are no plans to investigate because the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia is still looking into the shooting. Members charged with oversight have expressed no interest in launching their own investigation.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa suggested that briefings, “over the shoulder investigation” and monitoring of the Justice Department’s activity might be the most appropriate approach. The California Republican indicated that he still needed to consult with ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., on the issue.

“I’m very reluctant to have Congress intrude while there’s an ongoing investigation,” said Virginia’s Gerald E. Connolly, another Oversight Democrat. He believes Congress needs to let the law enforcement investigations “work their process before we work ours.”

The autopsy showed Carey had no alcohol or drugs in her system and that she died from multiple gunshot wounds to the back of her body, including one to the head, Sanders said. Though Carey had been diagnosed with postpartum depression and psychosis, and told police that President Barack Obama was monitoring her with cameras in her Stamford, Conn., apartment, Sanders claimed in a statement on The Sanders Firm website that the autopsy results refute theories that her actions were provoked by mental illness.

“Miriam’s death is symbolic of the growing problem of police using excessive force against the citizenry throughout our nation,” he said in the statement. “With respect to Miriam’s death, it is in the public’s interest to ensure our government acted responsibly not only from a criminal or a civil perspective but from an internal agency perspective. It is also in the public’s interest [to] avoid a similar tragedy in the future.”

In the days following the Oct. 3 shooting, which forced Capitol Hill into lock-down mode and caused a panic on campus, questions from members of Congress focused largely on radio interoperability. Lawmakers grilled law enforcement on whether the Capitol Police’s outdated radio system, which has since been upgraded, might have been to blame.

During a House Appropriations hearing on the Capitol Police budget, lawmakers grilled Chief Kim C. Dine about officers’ actions that day. Dine defended their actions and reminded lawmakers that his forces “are out there every day putting their lives on the line” and often have to make “split-second decisions.”

The Oct. 3 pursuit started when Carey drove her Infiniti through a security checkpoint outside the White House and struck a bicycle rack, knocking to the ground an officer with the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division who was attempting to stop her. Carey fled, launching a car chase from the White House with her 14-month-old daughter on board.

Law enforcement placed the Capitol complex on lockdown as the chase proceeded. Outside the Senate side of the Capitol, officers opened fire on Carey, fatally striking her when she was stopped by a blockade and tried to flee in reverse. Her daughter escaped serious injury.

Capitol Police previously confirmed that officers had been pulled off the street in the wake of the violent incident.

Staff on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which has oversight of the Capitol Police, did not respond to questions about the case, while House Administration Committee staff said they do not comment on pending litigation.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., also does not like to involve his committee in ongoing investigations, according to a committee spokesperson. House Judiciary Committee staff said Capitol Police are not under its jurisdiction. The Secret Service and Justice Department are, though. This observation did not elicit a response from the committee.

“I certainly think it would be premature for Congress to involve themselves in what looks like an unusual law enforcement event,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who sits on the Oversight Committee. “No one has come forward with any evidence of wrongdoing.

“We do know that both the Capitol and the White House were under assault. At first blush, it looks like the police at both ends were doing there job,” she continued.

Norton says Congress may well have a role in investigating whether there was an early enough alert to protect Capitol Hill and the D.C. residents and visitors in Carey’s path, but lawmakers do not have a role in investigating her death.

“She was in a race from them,” Norton concluded. “They had to catch her, and thank goodness they did.”

  • Malik Ahsan
  • SicSemperTyrannis

    Weird, congressional blowhards who have no problem sticking their noses in all matters big and small that they have no business getting involved in now are silent on this issue?

    how very odd.

    • chunt

      All he said that they would wait until the other investigation is complete. He didn’t say that they wouldn’t investigate it. i would think that everyone would want a complete impartial investigation; not piece meal multiple investigation. Frankly I haven’t seen or heard any evidence that the officers didn’t do needed to be done to stop her. That’s just my personal opinion. It will work out much better if we let the ppl tasked to investigate it do their jobs.

      • SicSemperTyrannis

        Those blowhards have never kept their mouths shut until and investigation was complete in their lives. Why are they starting now?

  • YONATAN C

    The Republican party and their cronies have done themselves a great disservice by holding the extension bill hostage since late last December. While they continued delaying and rejecting each proposal submitted in the senate, millions of families have suffered adversely financially. Millions of families have faced eviction, home foreclosures, personal bankruptcy, and homelessness, while the republican senate played “party politics”, using these families as bargaining chips, for political leverage, to further their political agenda. These are people with children who are suffering for no fault of their own, because of lay offs and corporate downsizing. These are not the “lazy” unemployed workers depicted in the press by some republicans in the senate. It’s always easy to point blame at others for failures, rather to one’s own self for failed policies. Remember, it wasn’t the poor and unemployed that caused our economy “meltdown” several years ago. It was the greedy bankers that were responsible, and needed bailing out with taxpayer’s dollars. Which after the bail outs, gave each other huge bonuses. Now the republican party, with senators such as John Boehner, are holding the much needed help for these families as leverage for the passing of their OIL bill in the senate. Sadly, this is what it all comes down to. I hope the republicans are prepared for the tremendous backlash by these millions of families and their loved ones in the coming elections. They may not care at the moment, but I assure you that they will realized their mistake when the democrats win by another landslide. The republicans have proven themselves to represent only the interests of a chosen few in our great country.

    • rocketw

      HA! John Boehner is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, knucklehead! HE IS NOT A SENATOR. Furthermore, it is the Democrats who are in charge of the Senate at present; the Republicans have no power in it. Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd (both Democrats) caused the financial meltdown. What a display of sheer, colossal ignorance this entire post is. But then, that’s what Democrats are… THEY should be prepared for backlash – for it is surely coming.

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