Who Cares About Miriam Carey?

The epidemic of police violence in America is largely ignored

shot by copsAdvanced PeriodonticsThe story of a shooting on Capitol Hill last Thursday unfolded in the typical way. Reports of “shots fired” led to speculation of a mass shooter. Local police, in this case the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), ordered a lockdown “requiring” members of Congress and their staff to “shelter in place.” The news gathered through Twitter. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), for example, tweeted the entire message from Capitol Hill security: “Gunshots have been reported on Capitol Hill requiring all occupants in all House Office Buildings to shelter in place. Close, lock and stay away from external doors and windows,” the message began. It also insisted no one would “be permitted to enter or exit the building until directed by USCP”. 

Another Congressman, Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), got into some trouble for appearing to blame the “violent rhetoric” of President Obama and other Democrats for the shooting. Attempting to do some damage control, before any facts were known, Griffin excused his comments by saying he had “tweeted out of emotion.” He texted a response to BuzzFeed: “The shooting today is a terrible and inexcusable tragedy and an act of terrorism. No one but the shooter is to blame.”

But the only shooters in last Thursday’s incident, despite the reaction by Capitol police and members of Congress, were Capitol police officers themselves. Miriam Carey, the woman they shot, was unarmed. Police say she tried to ram a barricade (an “outer perimeter” fence, or checkpoint) in front of the White House before speeding off, leading police on a chase through Washington, D.C.

How did the District of Columbia’s chief of police describe the behavior of cops who shot an unarmed woman to death in front of her one-year-old daughter because she tried to hit a barrier and reportedly knocked over a Secret Service agent with her car? They “acted heroically.” Jack Dunphy, an LAPD officer who blogs pseudonymously, admitted Carey “was neither a terrorist nor a hardened criminal,” before adding that, nevertheless, police couldn’t have known that because “[w]hen she fled from that initial encounter, rather than drive into a random neighborhood in Northwest Washington, she drove straight to the Capitol.” Dunphy calls Carey’s car a 3,600-pound “weapon.” After being shot at, Dunphy points out she went “skirting the Capitol grounds” before getting a block away from the Supreme Court. What reasonable officer, asks Dunphy, would not think a terrorist attack was taking place?

After Carey was shot and killed, a task force including the FBI and local police in Connecticut, where Carey lived, raided her home and began an investigation into the dead mother. They were not able to find any “nexus” to terrorism.

In 1976, a man named Chester Plummer was shot trying to scale the White House fence. The Nation’s Rick Perlstein compared the response now to the more muted response then, pointing out “how much more frantically we respond to scary stuff than we did in decades past.”

While apologizing for the poor timing of his tweet, Griffin defended his belief that “violent rhetoric only coarsens our culture.” But what about violent actions? Nearly every mass shooting picked up by the media is taken up by anti-gun pundits and politicians as evidence that American citizens’ right to self-defense ought to be abrogated in the name of safety. But there was no Piers Morgan special on CNN about Miriam Carey and the plague of police shootings. In fact, data on “officer-involved shootings” is rare to come by. The Department of Justice, for example, collects data on the use of force by police and complaints about excessive use of force, but does not release the number of police shootings or fatalities. In its fairly comprehensive collection of crime statistics, the FBI even includes totals for the number of police officers almost every town in America has. But it does not ask those police departments to let it know how many people they’ve killed in the line of duty, even as the Department of Justice runs a “roll call” honoring lawmen killed in the line of duty that includes slave catchers from the 19th century.

Police shootings like that of Miriam Carey happen on a regular basis. Carey’s may have remained a local news story, like the shooting of Jack Lamar Roberson, whose fiancé said she called 911 to get him an ambulance, or 107-year-old Monroe Isadore, who did not want to leave his bedroom, or Alex DeJesus, shot in the head while fleeing a police drug sting, had it not entered the news cycle as “shots fired” on Capitol Hill. Other police shootings, like that of Jonathan Ferrell, who was looking for help after an early morning car accident, may make it to the national news cycle. Ferrell’s case was notable because the cop involved was quickly charged with voluntary manslaughter. The cop’s probable cause hearing, originally scheduled for Monday, has been delayed. And these cases are just a sample. None of them are household names, and neither is Miriam Carey’s. Some, like DeJesus, who was selling drugs, and Isadore, who reportedly shot at police, can be easily excused by police apologists as having “had it coming.” In cases like Jack Roberson, who was likely having some kind of diabetic attack, police will say they felt threatened (they claim Roberson had two unidentified weapons in hand).

And in every case, as Dunphy noted in his Miriam Carey blog post, police will say they acted reasonably based on the facts known to them at the time. Officer Dick Haste, who shot and killed 19-year-old Ramarley Graham in his grandmother’s bathroom in the Bronx after chasing him over a marijuana purchase, had his indictment thrown out after successfully arguing the grand jury should have been informed that he was told by other officers that Graham had a gun. Graham did not have a gun; the grand jury failed to re-indict Haste, and no one ever even mentioned what kind of criminal charges his colleagues might have to face for providing him with wrong information that led to someone being killed.

Even when there are politicians who take up the cause of victims like Ramarley Graham, they turn a blind eye to the root causes of police violence. Bronx city councilman Andy King, for example, blames Graham’s death on racial profiling, even as he continues to push police to be more aggressive in pursuing the drug trade in his neighborhood, where Graham was shot and killed.

But sometimes victims of police violence haven’t been racially profiled. Sometimes they’re white. Sometimes police can’t even manufacture a potential crime to pin their shooting on. When 24-year-old Seth Adams was shot in the parking lot of his family’s business by an undercover police officer who was loitering there, police said Adams “decided to assault the deputy.” Adams’ family say he was worried because he saw someone in the parking lot of his family’s business after hours. The police later said the deputy, Michael Custer, was involved in a surveillance operation unrelated to the Adams’ family business. Broward County Sheriff Rick Bradshaw dismissed the incident by commenting that “there's only two witnesses here: the suspect and the deputy. And the suspect was not able to be interviewed.” The sheriff claimed the investigation would “verify” everything he already knew about a situation he was not a witness to. The shooting of Seth Adams was eventually ruled justified.

As for Miriam Carey, authorities haven’t even announced any kind of investigation into her shooting*. And why should they, when D.C.’s police chief already determined the shooting was heroic? Who cares about Miriam Carey?

*Update: Barnstormer notes the Washington Metro PD is leading an investigation into the shooting.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Ted S.||

    Another Congressman, Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), got into some trouble for appearing to blame the “violent rhetoric” of President Obama and other Democrats for the shooting.

    Rep. Griffin should have responded that he was just trying to bring to light the double standard between he casting blaming, and the way the Democrats immediately politicized the Gabby Giffords shooting. (Or the way the Democrats climbed atop a pile of dead children's bodies after the Superstorm Sandy Hook shooting.)

  • Paul.||

    Or the Oklahoma city bombing, or the... I don't even want to list them all.

  • PapayaSF||

    Sorry, but this seems like a good shoot to me. People who drive insanely, knocking down policemen and crashing into police cars, especially near Federal buildings, are basically begging to be shot.

  • Jordan||

    Wasn't that cop car destroyed by the driver crashing into one of the barriers himself?

  • DJF||

  • Paul.||

    Holy... nutballs, he just drove right through it. Probably texting his gf.

  • PapayaSF||

    My mistake. I thought she ran into police cars and that that was one of them.

  • R C Dean||

    My understanding is that, when she was shot, she wasn't a threat to anyone, that her car was immobilized.

    How is that a good shoot?

    You're carrying concealed, as a mere subject/civilian. Two scenarios:

    (1) Someone tries to run you down, misses, and comes around for another go. You shoot them.

    (2) Someone tries to run you down, crashes their car, and its stuck and not going anywhere. You shoot them.

    In my book, (1) is a good shoot, (2) is not.

  • Mongo||

    I would've fired too.

    It would be different had she walked up to the barrier.

  • Paul.||

    As I pointed out in an earlier thread (and I was partially mistaken which I'll clarify)-- when she was actually crashing into the barriers, officers* showed remarkable restraint. If they were actually in fear of a car bomb, that would have most likely been when it would have gone off.

    It was after her car was immobilized and she got out that they chose to shoot her.

    From my perspective, had she been shot while inside her vehicle during the barricade ramming, I'd be with you, Papaya. But that's not what happened.

    Once the driver emerges from the car, officers are better able to make a determination of threat-- is the driver armed/brandishing a weapon?

    *initially, I thought it was secret service where she was crashing into the barricade. After watching more closely, it looked like police. Hard to tell when everyone wears white Izod shirts and dark pants.

  • DJF||

    “”””when she was actually crashing into the barriers”””

    But was she “crashing” into barriers? Because the photos of the car at the end of the chase don’t show much damage to the front end. At most it looks like bumped into a barrier

  • Paul.||

    The video I saw she was ramming a barrier while surrounded by officers. By 'ramming', her car bounced against a barrier-- she wasn't slamming through them like the Dukes of Hazzard or anything.

    Again, that was precisely when she wasn't shot, and precisely the time I'd give the officers the benny of the doubt had they shot her.

  • PapayaSF||

    These are good points. I don't know the details of exactly when she was shot. I thought she was shot while in the car, which was still trying to move.

    But even if she was out of the car, it can be tricky. If she was coming out with her hands up, then of course, bad shoot. But cops are nervous and trigger-happy in situations like this, so maybe it looked like she might have had a gun, or whatever.

    As per my rule, I am more forgiving of police errors when the perp does stupid or insane things that contribute to that particular ending. OTOH, I am very much not forgiving of police errors when the other party has done nothing wrong: e.g. they're sitting at home and the SWAT team busts in through the wrong door.

  • Paul.||

    My opinion at this juncture is that there were moments during the entire episode when a shooting would have been justified, and moments where it wasn't. From what I've read from the detailed accounts, I don't think the shooting was entirely justified when it actually took place.

    Again, when she was actually ramming the barricade and nearly (or did) run over that officer (kinda went behind the tree at that point), had they killed her, I'd agree, good shoot.

  • ULOST||

    Just say you are a submissive statist and call it a day. Then your feeble attempt at justifying the shoot will make sense.

  • Paul.||

    And secondly, crazy people at the white house doing crazy things is not unheard of. I do admit that we're in the post 9/11 world, but officers should always keep that in the back of their minds when a woman gets out of a chrysler sebring after high-centering her car.

  • wwhorton||

    Benefit of the doubt might be too strong, but I'm willing to hear the excuse that the LEOs on the scene were so hyped up from adrenaline and scary stories about turrsts that they saw the woman get out of the car and group-hallucinated a Mac-10. Still, part of the reason police get paid to walk around with guns and have the legal right to cuff someone and haul them off to jail at gunpoint is that they're expected to a.) exercise sound, calm judgement, and b.) accept more risk than non-police.

    I get that it's a dangerous job and so forth--my dad was a sheriff's deputy just outside of DC for years--but the reason cops are granted special rights and paid a salary is that they're expected NOT to act like some regular Joe walking around with a gun on his hip. If the only difference between me and a cop is that a cop is given a gun for free, and there aren't higher standards or expectations of conduct, then shit, give me a shotgun and I'll shoot at bad drivers all day long.

  • TX_Teacher||

    "Regular Joe" walking around with a gun, assuming you mean a concealed carry permit, would probably exercise much better judgement. After all, he doesn't have a blue cone of silence to protect him from the consequences of getting it wrong. They generally do a better job than cops when it comes to obeying the law.

    http://www.ammoland.com/2013/1.....z2hKw5vZUe

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Good shoot? Fuck, if DC wasn't a "City-Under-Siege" in paranoid lock-down mode with ubiquitous barriers and trigger-happy, trained-to-kill storm troopers on every corner, this would not have happened. Washington itself is to blame.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Good shoot? Fuck, if DC wasn't a "City-Under-Siege" in paranoid lock-down mode with ubiquitous barriers and trigger-happy, trained-to-kill storm troopers on every corner, this would not have happened. Washington itself is to blame.

  • creech||

    While the image of a mad bomber pushing a button and blowing up himself, his vehicle, and/or everyone around him is an almost nightly fictional occurrence on tv and cable drama shows, not to mention a reality in large parts of the world, what probability should LEOs put on such an event happening after an unexplainable failure to stop after crashing into a barrier at the White House?

  • Paul.||

    And the 'car bomb' not going off at the moment when it would have done the most damage is also an indicator.

  • Brandybuck||

    DUNPHYYYYYYYYY!!!!!

  • larry hammond||

    The video I saw started with a lot of LEO's surrounding her vehicle with weapons drawn. She did hit a car escaping but didn't do anything that indicated she was trying to run a cop down, merely escape. Track her down, arrest her, file all the charges you can justify against her and let the system work. The LEO's discharged a LOT of rounds with little to no justification. Just what I saw. Not enough to convict on and what I saw may be incomplete, but I think an investigation and probably grand jury are reasonable.

  • Barnstormer||

    The WaPo has printed news of a police-run investigation into the shooting. So far, the published details are about what you'd expect from a police-run investigation.

  • Paul.||

    Followed, procedures they were?

  • Barnstormer||

    No, not exactly. They fired at a moving vehicle, which is expressly verboten, and has not been spoken to. More like misdirection--changing the story here and there--and red herrings.

  • larry hammond||

    Dozens of cops all with weapons drawn and the felt they had to shoot an unarmed mother of a 1 year old. Pussies.

  • Paul.||

    What reasonable officer, asks Dunphy, would not think a terrorist attack was taking place?

    *raises hand*

  • larry hammond||

    A reasonable officer would look for something that was high probability, like say an unstable person. Possibly dangerous, but hey you know, let's handle this like professionals and see if we can't end it with no lives lost. You know, protect and serve and all that old time bullshit. An unreasonable officer would always be looking for terrorism, which thankfully remains statistically very rare in the US.

  • Paul.||

    Ed Zachary.

    It's the white house. Crazy people are attracted to it. Hell, Crazy people inhabit it!

    Officers should be willing to take increased tactical risk so as not to shoot someone who, despite acting incredibly dangerously, may not actually be Al Shebab trying to blow up DC. Which, by the way would do millions of dollars in improvements if they did blow it up.

  • Paul.||

    I dunno, the whole thing is just really sad... the woman was clearly nuts (I was thankful it wasn't one of my ex-girlfriends) and the whole thing is a tragedy.

  • TruckerDave||

    Did the pigs let the family see her bullet ridden body yet, or her daughter ? This government sucks like Obozo sucks. MURDERERS ! ! !

  • F H L||

    "How did the District of Columbia’s chief of police describe the behavior of cops who shot an unarmed woman to death in front of her one-year-old daughter because she tried to hit a barrier and reportedly knocked over a Secret Service agent with her car?"

    Poor woman. Killed in front of her own one-year old daughter she decided to take with her in her rampage! In fact, I think having the kid there makes the shooting even more justified. The kid's life was in danger.

  • Paul.||

    Especially after she got out of the car.

  • ULOST||

    And didn't know the kid was in there. No one ever gets shot by poorly aiming police. Does anyone know how many shots were fired?

  • Seamus||

    I am astonished that people who were certain that George Zimmerman was guilty of cold-blooded murder when he shot an assailant who, according to credible evidence, was in the act of smashing his head into the concrete sidewalk, are willing to cut the cops enormous amounts of slack for gunning down a woman who may have been threatening people a few seconds earlier, but who at the time of her shooting was getting out of her immobilized car and was therefore unarmed.

  • TX_Teacher||

    They are authority figures, duh.

  • umh||

    Authority figures should be held to higher standards than the general public if for no other reason than just because they supposedly know the law.

  • commonsensical||

    If you were not there nor part of oaw enforcement how can anyone judge? are you people not forgetting this woman who is clearly ramming cars in her attempt to flee instead of getting out of the car or stopping and surrendering? she ran over a cop during this as well! yet the shooting was justified because it didn't happen at the righ time that's the logic here? no one knows what she was saying when she was exiting the vehicle no one knows if she had anything her hand which could have looked like a weapon! people who think cops are wrong are what is wrong with society it's the cops fault because they have a split second decision at the time is it a bomb, gun or other weapon it's sad we are at this point but blame terrorism both domestic and international and also blame the criminal upticks in today's society that is the forefront of what is wrong because there is no ownership or responsibly for oneself. I just robbed a bank and fleeing but refuse to stop and cause an accident killing myself and my family meme era are the first to say I was a good person I didn't rob that bank nope it's the cops fault befor chasing me! that right there is not thinking clearly and with common sense!!!!

  • ||

    Needs moar exclamation points. Maybe when you move up a grade level they'll teach you the rest of the punctuation marks.

  • wwhorton||

    I always find that whenever someone's handle is something like "commonsense4324" or "logical_mind" there winds up being a great deal of unintentional irony.

  • Loki||

    Learn spelling, punctuation, and rules for to capitalize (hint: the first word in each sentence) and maybe I'll take your incoherent ramblings with more than a huge grain of salt. Until then, PoliceOne is that way.

  • Loki||

    *when to capitalize...

    Isn't there an Iron Law about always making unintentionally ironic typos when blasting someone else's spelling/ grammar?

  • umh||

    Well it is ironic. I always cut people a little slack since many sites won't allow revisions after the post. On the other hand when it gets very bad I just go with it's to much work to figure out what some people are trying to say.

  • DarrenM||

    Not everyone worked in the steno pool. If you couldn't figure out what he meant, that's one thing. To criticize punctuation and spelling on a freaking blog comment is stupid.

  • Seamus||

    You forgot to mention how cops just want to be able to go home safely at the end of their shift.

  • OneOut||

    What ever happened to shooting out the tires ?

  • ||

    There are better ways to immobilize a vehicle. And as has been noted, she was out of the vehicle when they shot her to death.

  • Gabriel Hanna||

    It's very difficult to do (small moving target) and doesn't work well--the car a) doesn't stop and b) is not easily controlled.

    Physics will not be denied. Suppose someone (not this case I know) is going 50 mph and you "shoot out their tires". The car is still going 50 mph, on its rims and shreds of its tires, so it is very difficult to brake it or steer it. The tires are busted so now your coefficient of friction is steel on asphalt, which is much lower, and so the car cannot slow down or turn without a skid, which is uncontrolled by definition.

  • steffenmulroy||

    my friend's mother-in-law makes $88/hr on the laptop. She has been fired from work for ten months but last month her payment was $15328 just working on the laptop for a few hours. official website
    =========================

    http://www.works23.com

    =========================

  • ULOST||

    Your mom in-law ain't worth no $88 on the top of my lap. $15328 must include cents to be a few hours work.

  • Gabriel Hanna||

    Incidentally car bombers elsewhere in the world have no compunctions using families. It's only a matter of time before it happens here.

    I say this not to excuse law enforcement's handling of this particular case, but it is a fact that needs to be included in any discussion of whether it is appropriate to shoot a mother with a baby.

    In Iraq for years the policy has been to send enough .50 into the engine block to stop it before it gets to where it can kill the people at the checkpoint. One reason not to seek monsters to destroy in such places. But sometimes the monsters seek you, and when that happens here we'll get similar policies, unless we consider the possibility and come up with better arguments.

  • DarrenM||

    Weren't there any .50 caliber guns at the White House? I wonder what their plan was supposed to be in the event of an actual car bomb. Perhaps they don't think it's worth as much as a shack in Iraq.

  • umh||

    I can't and won't try to give a percentage but many people will behave irrationally when police start pointing guns at them and yelling conflicting things.

  • HumanX||

    You're leaving out the fact that police had no idea who was behind the wheel or what her motivations were for driving away. What they did know is that she was driving recklessly, attacked someone with her car and would not pull over when directed to do so. She was a danger, there's no other way to put it.

    I guess you would only be satisfied if she'd crashed into someone else and seriously injured someone or worse yet killed someone. Would it have taken a bomb in the car to explode before you'd back off a bit and say, "Ok, maybe the police could be justified in taking a few shots at her." I think it would have.

  • ULOST||

    She was unarmed and out of the car when shot. I repeat, she was unarmed and out of the car when she was shot. Can you hear me now.

  • herbisonmatilde||

    my friend's step-sister makes $84/hr on the computer. She has been laid off for nine months but last month her check was $21144 just working on the computer for a few hours. Continue Reading
    ==================

    http://www.works23.com

  • rose-ellen||

    More collateral damage of the war on terror. Except unlike her-we never get the name, faces and stories of the people we "inadvertently" kill with our drone attacks. Just like terrorism is blowback for our policies over there[as the Boston bombers said ,it was because of our drone strikes over there they attacked us],our fear of reprisals is blowback and she was a victim of it. Though we have the technology to kill people from a distance with impunity-we believe, she is evidence that there is no impunity as we become victims of our own "war on terror,"

  • Teaganl||

    Since I started fre+lancing I've been bringing in $90 bucks/h… I sit at home and i am doing my work from my laptop. The best thing is that i get more time to spent with my family and with my kids and in the same time i can earn enough to support them... You can do it too. Start here.for more work detail go to tech tab.
    =========================
    http://www.JOBS72.com
    =========================

  • DenverJay||

    I have to agree with Paul: if they had shot her while she was approaching the barricade then it would be justified. But after the car was immobilized and surrounded there was no reason to shoot. This is the problem with law enforcement today, they all think they are soldiers on the front line, and they are not. America is supposed to be a free country, not an occupied zone.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement