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November 24, 2014

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Police shoot, kill driver outside Capitol after chase

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid calls injured officer to wish him well

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Alex Brandon / AP

Police gather near the scene on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, after gunshots were heard. Police say the U.S. Capitol has been put on a security lockdown amid reports of possible shots fired outside the building.

Updated Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 | 5:10 p.m.

Capitol on Lockdown After Shots Heard

A damaged Capitol Hill police care is surrounded by crime scene tape after a car chase and shooting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. A woman driving a black Infiniti with a young child inside tried to ram through a White House barricade Thursday, then led police on a chase that ended in gunfire outside the Capitol, witnesses and officials said.  Launch slideshow »

A woman with a 1-year-old girl led Secret Service and police on a harrowing car chase from the White House past the Capitol Thursday, attempting to penetrate the security barriers at both national landmarks before she was shot to death, police said. The child survived.

"I'm pretty confident this was not an accident," said Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Still, Capitol Police said there appeared to be no terrorist link. Authorities would not say whether the woman had been armed.

Tourists, congressional staff and even some senators watched as a caravan of law enforcement vehicles chased a black Infiniti with Connecticut license plates down Constitution Avenue outside the Capitol. House and Senate lawmakers, inside debating how to end a government shutdown, briefly shuttered their chambers as Capitol Police shut down the building.

The woman's car at one point had been surrounded by police cars and she managed to escape, careening around a traffic circle and past the north side of the Capitol. Video shot by a TV camerman showed police pointing firearms at her car before she rammed a Secret Service vehicle and continued driving. Lanier said police shot and killed her a block northeast of the historic building.

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.

"This appears to be an isolated, singular matter, with, at this point, no nexus to terrorism," said Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine.

Authorities did not immediately identify the driver of the car. Stamford, Conn., Mayor Michael Pavia said the FBI was executing a search warrant at a Stamford address in connection with the investigation. Police officers had cordoned off a condominium building and the surrounding neighborhood in the shoreline city.

The pursuit began when the car sped onto a driveway leading to the White House, over a set of lowered barricades. When the driver couldn't 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 B.J. Campbell, a tourist from Portland, Ore.

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."

Police shot and killed the driver just outside the Hart Senate Office Building, where many senators have their offices. Dine said an officer took the child from the car to a hospital. She is in good condition under protective custody, officials said.

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

"We heard three, four, five pops," said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. Police ordered 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 terrorized the Navy Yard with a shotgun, leaving 13 people dead including the gunman.

Before the disruption, lawmakers 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 on the plaza around the Capitol said they were working without pay as the result of the shutdown.

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada said via Twitter: “I and my staff are safe and secure. Our thoughts and prayers are with anyone who may be injured, as well as the brave first responders.”

Heller’s and Sen. Harry Reid’s offices are in the Hart Building, and their windows overlook 2nd Street NE, about a half a block from where the shooting took place.

Staffers in Heller’s office said that they didn’t hear any shots fired or see any of the commotion at the time of the shooting.

Heller was outside the Capitol on the east side — about two blocks away from where the shots were fired — walking toward his car and talking on the phone with his wife when Capitol Police officers whizzed by on their motorcycles with sirens on.

“I didn’t know what was happening. ... They started yelling at me to get back to the Capitol building,” Heller told the Sun.

He was rushed back into the building and into the cloakroom off the Senate chamber. He said he was the only person in the building.

Heller gave a solemn nod to the Capitol’s police officers.

“You know, it’s what they say about first responders,” he said. “I’m running in the building, and they’re all running out (toward the shots).”

At Reid’s office, the lights were on, but there was a sign on the door of his office saying it was closed because of the government shutdown. No one answered the door.

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford’s spokesman Tim Hogan said, “We’re all in lockdown. No updates other than that.” Horsford later said via Twitter: “Everyone in my office is safe: we are currently in lockdown. Awaiting further instructions.”

Rep. Joe Heck said via Twitter: “Staff and I safe in office. Followed protocols for shelter in place following rpts of gun shots. Thoughts with responding officers.”

Rep. Dina Titus said on her Twitter account: “Everyone in my office is accounted for and safe. Lockdown has now been lifted.”

U.S. Capitol Police on the plaza around the Capitol said they were working without pay as the result of the shutdown.

Sun reporter Karoun Demirjian and AP writers Mark Sherman, Philip Elliott, Jesse Holland, David Espo, Alan Fram and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

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