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Blumenthal: Sensitive Situation Likely Led To Capitol Hill Shooting

Senator Says He's Awaiting For Investigation Results Before Drawing Conclusions
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (credit: Getty Images)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (credit: Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Relatives of Miriam Carey, the Stamford, Conn., woman who was shot dead after leading police on a Capitol Hill chase last week, are questioning why cops had to resort to lethal force. But Sen. Richard Blumenthal defended law enforcement officials Sunday.

In an interview with CBS 880’s Steve Scott, Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he was awaiting the results of an investigation before drawing any conclusions, but he said the site of the incident heightened tensions.

“One point to keep in mind is the location and circumstances, the confusion about what the goal was of this person,” said Blumenthal, one of the many Capitol Hill employees affected when the Capitol was placed on lockdown. “And most important, an investigation is certainly appropriate. … I am awaiting its factual findings along with oversight and scrutiny from other sources.

“There was no knowledge with any certainty about what the motives were or the purpose — first ramming the White House (barricades) and then seeking apparently to do some kind of harm at the Capitol. There was also no certainty as to what kinds of weapons the person in the car might have, and whether in fact the car might itself have some kind of explosive danger. … There was a lot of uncertainty at best, confusion and chaos at worst.”

With her 19-month-old daughter in her car Thursday, Carey sped onto a driveway leading to the White House, over a set of barricades. When she couldn’t get through a second barrier, she spun the car in the opposite direction and then sped down Pennsylvania Avenue. Then the chase began.

Carey was surrounded by police cars, but drove off, careening around a traffic circle and past the north side of the Capitol. Video shot by a TV cameraman showed police pointing firearms at her car before she rammed a Secret Service vehicle and continued driving.

Miriam Carey (credit: Handout)

Miriam Carey (credit: Handout)

Police fatally shot Carey a block away. The child, who was not injured, was placed in protective custody.

Relatives of Carey, who was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, said that she was struggling with post-partum depression and psychosis.

Carey had an encounter with Stamford police in December 2012 that resulted in her being taken for a mental health evaluation, law enforcement sources told CBS News’ Bob Orr.

Carey said she believed that President Obama had placed her and her residence under some kind of electronic surveillance, according to sources. She told police she was a prophet and said that Obama would place the entire city of Stamford under a “lockdown,” sources told Orr.

Blumenthal said the case has shined a light on Americans suffering from mental illness. He said more resources and focus need to be placed on the issue.

“The most important point or lesson to be drawn from this really tragic incident — and my heart goes out to the family — is that mental illness is still an abiding scourge, in fact an epidemic in this country that needs to be addressed,” he said. “As we know from the incidents of gun violence and now this very, very tragic incident, mental illness is a cause of violence. We need to reach dangerous people before they do damage to other people.”

In a news conference Friday, Carey’s sisters questioned why police opened fire on the unarmed woman.

“Deadly force was not necessary,” said Valarie Carey, a retired NYPD transit police sergeant. “They could have rammed the car or disabled the car.”

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