Efforts to shed light on the chaotic events that led federal law enforcement officers to fatally shoot a 34-year-old woman outside the Capitol 18 months ago may rest in the hands of a federal judge.
Congress has shown scant interest in probing the death of Miriam Carey, the Connecticut dental hygienist involved in the fast and furious car chase that ended with 18 rounds of gunfire on and around the campus. Video of the Oct. 3, 2013, shooting of Carey has yet to be released by the Obama administration or Capitol Police, which responded along with the Secret Service when Carey allegedly drove into a well-marked White House security checkpoint without authorization, then fled. The unarmed mother, driving erratically with her 14-month-old daughter in the backseat of the car, sustained five gunshot wounds to the neck and torso area, according to an autopsy.
In July 2014, the Justice Department announced no criminal civil rights or local charges would be filed against the officers involved. But the agency has not complied with requests to make the final report and findings of that investigation — involving interviews with more than 60 witnesses, crime scene evidence, ballistics reports, videos and photos — public.
Capitol Police also stonewalled attempts to gather further information, citing an ongoing internal review of the matter and pending legal action from the Carey family. Meanwhile, the officers involved in the fatal shooting are back on duty.
Appropriators on the House panel that determines Capitol Police funding grilled Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine about the circumstances surround the shooting during a March 2014 hearing. At the time, Dine defended the department’s use of lethal force, but said he could not go into details on the criminal aspect of the officers’ actions, as the incident was still under investigation.
“These officers are out there every day putting their lives on the line, and they have to make split-second decisions, and it’s easy for any one of us to obviously sit here and second-guess them,” but even case law doesn’t allow for that, Dine told the panel.
Former Rep. James P. Moran , D-Va., then challenged Dine to weigh in on whether it might have been a better idea to shoot at the car’s tires, rather than at Carey, given that she was unarmed and had a child with her.
“There’s a lot of opinions out there, but most of them are wrong and uneducated,” Dine shot back.
Frustrated by the official silence, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The conservative watchdog group lodged its April 14 complaint on behalf of WorldNetDaily.com , alleging the DOJ has violated the law by stalling the conservative outlet’s Freedom of Information Act request.
“It’s time for the Justice Department to live up to its name and bring justice, openness and closure to the Miriam Carey tragedy,” WND CEO Joseph Farah said in a statement.
New York attorney Eric Sanders, who led a Capitol Hill protest on the one-year anniversary of the shooting, received an anonymous letter in February from a person claiming to represent concerned employees of the Capitol Police.
“While the US District attorney has failed to prosecute the officers involved in the actual shooting, I would like you to focus on another aspect of this tragedy … the neglect of the Capitol Police,” states the one-page letter obtained by CQ Roll Call. It suggests police could have used “pop-up” barricades to divert Carey’s car.
Capitol Police officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said their questions about lessons learned from the Carey shooting have gone unanswered. The handling of the incident is another issue that has provoked questions about department leadership.
*Originally posted on Roll Call.