A woman driving a black Infiniti with a young child inside tried to ram through a White House barricade today before leading police on a chase that ended in gunfire outside the US Capitol building, where police shot and killed her.
Tourists watched the shooting unfold outside the Washington DC Capitol as lawmakers inside debated how to end a government shutdown. Police quickly locked down the entire complex for about an hour and both houses of Congress went into recess.
The shooting rattled the US capital three weeks after 12 people were killed and three injured in a shooting spree by a government technology contractor at the US Navy Yard, about 2.4km from the Capitol.
The US Capitol is the equivalent of New Zealand's Parliament buildings, housing both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican who said he was briefed by the Homeland Security Department, said the woman was killed. Asked if she was armed, he replied: "I don't think she was. There was no return fire." Police described it as an isolated event and saw no indications of terrorism.
The pursuit began when a car with Connecticut plates sped onto the driveway leading to the White House, over a set of lowered barricades.
When she 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 BJ Campbell, a visiting tourist.
A fleet of police and Secret Service cars chased the Infiniti toward Capitol Hill.
"The car was trying to get away. But it was going over the median and over the curb," said Matthew Coursen, who was on his way to a legislative office building 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."
Coursen watched the shooting from his cab window.
"I thought to myself, 'the car is getting blocked in. The car is going to surrender'," he said.
"Now the cop has his weapon out. The car kept trying to get away. Then he fired shots." It was not clear whether the driver was armed.
Tourist Edmund Ofori-Attah said he walked toward the scene, curious about what was going on.
"Then I heard the gunfire" and hit the ground, he said.
The Senate's top security official Terrance Gainer said a woman was driving the car and had a child with her. Ofori-Attah said the child appeared to be about 2 to 3 years old.
Gainer said the child was taken to a hospital and he knew of no harm to the youngster.
Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said the driver was in custody. He did not disclose her condition. There were earlier reports that she had been killed by police.
A police officer was injured in the traffic accident but Gainer said the injuries were not life threatening.
"We heard three, four, five pops," said Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat, who was walking from the Capitol to an office building across the street. Police ordered Casey and nearby tourists to crouch behind a car for protection, then hustled everyone into the Capitol.
"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.
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.
People standing outside the Supreme Court across the street from Congress were hurried into the court building by authorities.
The White House also was briefly locked down after the incident at Capitol Hill and the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the compound was closed to pedestrians. Secret Service said the procedures were precautionary.
The lockdown order at the Capitol was called off and security along Independence Avenue was eased shortly before 3pm (8am, NZT). Tourists were allowed back onto the Capitol grounds.
The Capitol police, who were deemed "essential" staff, were at work despite the shutdown but they are not being paid.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident, a White House official said, providing no further details.
In 1998, a gunman burst through a security checkpoint at the Capitol and killed two Capitol Police officers in an exchange of fire that sent tourists and other bystanders diving for cover. The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston Jr, was not charged with a crime because of apparent mental instability.
— NewsHour (@NewsHour) October 3, 2013
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) October 3, 2013
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 3, 2013
— NewsChannel 8 (@NewsChannel8) October 3, 2013
Something happening outside Capitol. Police running around with guns at ready. pic.twitter.com/7JkF5fMzfS
— Alex Leary (@learyreports) October 3, 2013
The warning on televisions inside Capitol. pic.twitter.com/g2CaUx87Q3
— Alex Leary (@learyreports) October 3, 2013
— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) October 3, 2013
- AP, Reuters
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