Already in a state of high tension over the government shutdown, Capitol Hill was briefly placed on lockdown on Thursday afternoon after a car chase ended with an exchange of shots near the Capitol building in which a suspect was killed, and a police officer injured.
Miriam Carey, 34, a dental hygienist from Connecticut, is believed to be the woman shot dead at the seat of a black Infiniti, which was registered in her name. Enforcement officials believe she was the driver, the Washington Post reported, citing officials. NBC News and local media have also identified the driver as Carey.
Police and the FBI have since searched and cordoned off a property in Stamford, Conneticut, which is thought to be the woman's home.
A Stamford Police spokesman said they had been called to her residence previously "at least once" but she had no criminal record. After searching the house on Thursday, officers said: "We did not deem there to be any danger."
Her mother, Idella Carey, told ABC News her daughter began suffering from post-partum depression after giving birth to her daughter, Erica, last August.
“She had post-partum depression after having the baby” she said. “A few months later, she got sick. She was depressed. ... She was hospitalized.”
Authorities have not yet officially confirmed the identity of the woman driving the car.
An investigation into the incident has begun, after the woman travelling with a child in her car was stopped by police close to the US Treasury building, just a block from the White House.
Instead of stopping, she drove off at high speed towards Capitol Hill, hitting a security barrier and going through red lights along the way. Police were authorised to use force to stop the vehicle and shots were fired. The chase ended when the car stopped. Police said the case was an isolated incident, unrelated to terrorism.
Images emerged afterwards of a young child being carried out of the vehicle to a patrol car by police.
“I'm pretty confident this was not an accident,” said Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Separately, law enforcement sources told the Post that the the woman in the car was unarmed.
“The car was trying to get away. But it was going over the median and over the curb,” said eyewitness Matthew Coursen, who was in a taxi when the car sped past. “The car got boxed in and that's when I saw an officer of some kind draw his weapon and fire shots into the car.”
A Secret Service agent and a police officer were injured, but were said to be in good condition and expected to recover. Officials said the woman was killed, but that a young child in the car was uninjured.
During the emergency, Congressmen, Senators and their staff inside the Capitol and nearby office buildings were ordered to take “shelter in place.” Others were moved to safe areas. But the security alert was lifted in less than an hour, and tourists were allowed back onto the Capitol grounds.
The situation further rattled nerves in an anxious city, just three weeks after 12 people were killed and three injured in a shooting spree by a government technology contractor at the US Navy Yard, around a mile and a half away.
Though highly unusual, the incident was not unprecedented. In 1998, a gunman burst through a security checkpoint and killed two Capitol Police officers in an exchange of fire that sent tourists and other bystanders diving for cover. The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston, was not charged with a crime because of apparent mental instability.