Family of Stamford woman shot and killed in U.S. Capitol incident last fall has filed a $75 million claim against federal government. The reason? To get more answers about how their loved one died. The federal investigation into what happened to 34 year old Miriam Carey is ongoing.
You may remember the video: a Connecticut woman leading officers on a wild chase through the U.S. Capitol just before she was shot to death with her young daughter in the car.
Now, after Miriam Carey's family has looked more closely at the evidence, they've taken steps to sue the federal government. Carey's sister sat down exclusively with NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters Chief Investigative Reporter Len Besthoff to explain.
"My sister was murdered in Washington, D.C. She was unarmed and she was in a car with her baby, and at some point, those officers saw that, yet they repeatedly shot at her," said Valarie Carey.
Valarie Carey said she's angry about the way in which her sister Miriam, a 34-year-old dental hygienist from Stamford, was killed last October. Now, after reviewing all the available information, her family has filed a $75 million claim against the federal government.
"It's been very hard for us," Valarie Carey said. "Very hard."
Court documents explaining the details of Miriam Carey’s death remain sealed as the investigation continues.
Between NBC News sources and a search warrant affidavit obtained by the family’s attorney, we do know Miriam Carey was driving her Infiniti with her 13-month-old daughter in the backseat around 2 p.m. on a busy Thursday when she failed to stop at a security post at the southeast entrance to the White House.
“Based off of their own affidavits, it doesn’t suggest she rammed the White House gate,” the claim says, adding that the family believes Miriam Carey mistakenly went through the post “because the entrance was negligently maintained, covered and supervised.”
“From my guestimation, it wasn’t properly manned until she was inside of that area, when I believe my sister realized, ‘I’m in a space I’m not supposed to be in,’ [and] she actually tried to leave that space,” Valarie Carey said.
Miriam Carey turned around and took off, disobeying an officer’s order to stop. The officer was injured when Miriam Carey’s car struck a bicycle rack used to block her path.
In the claim, the family says, “The officer intentionally, negligently, and recklessly threw the bicycle rack.”
After fleeing the White House security post, Miriam Carey is believed to have sped down Pennsylvania Avenue, reaching 80 mph, with officers in pursuit, until she reached the Garfield Memorial and was surrounded by Capitol Police and Secret Service officers with weapons drawn.
They fired after Carey backed her car into a cruiser and took off again.
“Now she’s leaving and they’re shooting at a car that’s moving away from them,” said Valarie Carey.
The pursuit continued to the Capitol grounds. Miriam Carey still refused to stop and officers fired at her again, according to the search warrant affidavit. The car then came to rest and Miriam Carey was pronounced dead a short time later. Her daughter survived.
Valarie Carey and family attorney Eric Sanders, both retired New York Police Department officers, question the tactics used.
“Because someone does not follow commands does not necessarily make them a threat, does not justify you shooting at them,” Valarie Carey said. “Maybe the person does not understand the commands that you are making.”
Michael Clark, a University of New Haven criminal justice professor with more than two decades of experience with the FBI, disagrees.
“It’s almost that the family is asking them to look into the mindset of Ms. Carey and try to understand what she was thinking,” Clark said. “And that’s almost an insurmountable task for these officers.”
Clark added that the U.S. Capitol Police and Uniformed Secret Service have one mission in Washington, D.C. and will go to great lengths to protect everyone involved. Neither agency would comment on the Carey incident, citing the ongoing investigation.
“It is absolutely a different location,” said Clark. “And when you think about it, what is going through these officers’ minds, what is ground zero if you’re at terrorist? It would be Washington D.C.., the White House, the Capitol.”
Both Clark and the Carey family are dealing with a number of unknowns when it comes to the incident that left Washington, D.C. on lockdown for a short time.
What they agree on is a key to investigating will be to determine exactly how it all started at the White House security post: just how fast Miriam Carey was going and whether she was driving aggressively. If that video exists, it’s not yet been made public.
“There are certainly enough cameras at that gate that can tell us from all angles which was she was traveling, which way she went in the gate, how she left the gate, and there are also cameras on the booth,” Sanders said.
“They have to make a snap decision. And they did,” Clark said. “And now we’ll see how it plays out in the final report.”
A number of questions about Miriam Carey’s mental state have been raised in this case. Her family said they are immaterial, though admitted she was suffering from serious postpartum depression that required medication.
Valarie Carey said her sister’s treatment had been tapered off well before her fateful confrontation in Washington, at her doctor’s orders, though the family cannot say what she was doing in Washington, D.C. on that day.
Miriam Carey’s daughter is living with her father.