Capitol Police surround the out-of-control vehicle that led a car chase through Washington, D.C. (Reuters/Alhurra TV)
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As I watched coverage of the tragic incident near the White House and Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, for hours yesterday on TV, something seemed off from the start. After the breathless, often (very) wrong reporting on high-profile shootings and bombings in past months, my skepticism was on red alert. Now nearly every major news outlet was reporting that (1) a black sedan had deliberately tried to “breach” a gate and enter the White House grounds; (2) the car drove away and the driver shot and wounded a cop; (3) and the driver, possibly a woman, was dead, or alive.
Of course, coverage soon centered on the travails of Congress members who had to shelter in place for, oh, half an hour while the crazed gunwoman was firing away outside.
It tooks hours for the media, especially on TV, to admit that (1) there was no White House “gate,” it was a barrier, and maybe she had just made a wrong turn and then flipped out; (2) the woman somehow escaped not one but two police checkpoints; (3) and she was unarmed and, exiting her vehicle, she was shot so many times by police that identification would be difficult.
Now, this is not to defend the actions by the woman, Miriam Carey, 34, a dental hygienist from Stamford, Connecticut. Much is yet to be known about her and why she was in DC and what she was doing at the first White House barrier. (One unconfirmed report claims, in shades of the US Navy Yard killer, that she thought Obama was stalking her. Or maybe it was just a case of extreme road rage.) Some media reports paint her as well-adjusted and “normal,” others suggest she was suffering from post-partum depression and/or had hurt her head in a fall.
How police and Secret Service and police handled their response at the two checkpoints will be probed and possibly their actions, in fear-heightened DC, will seem very reasonable. But the main video that has surfaced, revealing what happened at the second barrier—police surrounded the car at very close range, surely saw the child inside, but opened fire anyway as the car pulled away (what, they can’t shoot out tires nowadays?)—and she still escaped. It was amazing to watch every TV host and all of Congress hype and hail the police work when somehow a car escaped from not one but two checkpoints. What if this had been a terrorist with a suitcase nuke?