Capitol Hill Shooting: Questions Increasing on Whether Deadly Force Was Necessary

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Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 5 2013 4:11 PM

Capitol Hill Shooting: Questions Increasing on Whether Deadly Force Was Called For

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Police cordon off the corner of the Contitution Ave and First St after shots fired were reported Thursday near 2nd Street NW and Constitution Avenue on Capitol Hill. Turns out, law enforcement officers were the only ones doing the shooting

Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

A few days after a confusing incident that involved federal agents shooting and killing an unarmed driver who had a toddler in the car, questions are increasing on whether the reaction was justified. A total of at least 17 shots were fired at two locations Thursday before 34-year-old Miriam Carey was killed, notes the Washington Post. That in itself is questionable. After all, shooting at moving vehicles is supposed to be a last resort for big-city police officers. And when you add the fact that Carey was unarmed and had a baby in the car, the whole thing becomes even more questionable. Internal investigations are ongoing but right now it’s impossible to know whether Capitol Police or the Secret Service violated their own policies during the chase and shootings. Why? Well, they simply refused to tell the Post what those policies are in the first place.

Carey’s family has started to raise questions about whether agents really needed to shoot a woman whose main crime seems to have been crashing into a barrier at the White House. Her mother said Carey suffered from postpartum depression and had a family history of schizophrenia. In fact, it seems Carey was delusional, convinced she was being watched and that President Obama was personally communicating with her, law enforcement officials tell USA Today.    

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"My sister could have been any person traveling in our capital," Valarie Carey told reporters. "Deadly physical force was not the ultimate recourse and it didn't have to be."

Some experts though have insisted the shooting was justified, noting that Carey appeared to be trying to breach security at two potential high-profile targets. Particularly relevant, these experts say, is that Carey seemingly refused to surrender at gunpoint. Others, however, say there is no excuse to open fire on someone who wasn’t using any physical force. “Just because she didn’t get out of the car if they told her to get out of the car is not sufficient to use deadly force,” a retired New York police commander said.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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