Image: Shooting scene
Pablo Martinez Monsivais  /  AP
A police officer on a motorcycle was hit by a car allegedly fleeing a traffic stop. The driver was then shot to death.
updated 7/15/2009 9:14:18 PM ET 2009-07-16T01:14:18

A chaotic scene unfolded near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday after police shot and killed an armed man in what authorities described as a routine rush hour traffic stop that turned deadly.

U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Schneider said the unidentified 35-year-old man sped away in a white car after being told to stop about a block north of the Capitol grounds. The man drove the wrong way down a street, ultimately striking two officers with his car, and crashed into a police cruiser, she said.

Police then opened fire after seeing the man hold up his handgun and refusing to put it down, said Schneider, who described the melee as "very fast moving, very fluid."

"The officers felt they were being threatened — they were in fear for their lives," Schneider said.

She did not know if the man ever fired at police. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The police officers who were hit — one of whom was on a motorcycle — received minor injuries, Schneider said.

The late afternoon scare occurred as lawmakers were wrapping up a third day of hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor . Police briefly sealed off part of the Capitol as a precaution, but the buildings were reopened about a half hour later. Authorities said the shooting was not related to the Capitol complex.

"We hear pop, pop, pop, like a gun," said Carol Lanigan, of Toledo, Ohio, describing how she saw a white car come flying down the street with two police cars behind chasing it.

She said she heard about four or five shots.

"There were so many gunshots being fired my family got down," said Robert Drumm, a tourist from Oklahoma who was visiting the nation's capital with his family.

Drumm said he saw someone being taken away in an ambulance. He said he first noticed trouble when he saw one car speeding and being chased by a police vehicle.

Numerous emergency vehicles converged quickly in the area.

Another witness, Dale Lanigan of Toledo, Ohio, described a similar scene, although he said two police cars gave chase.

As the car went past him, Lanigan said, "the driver had one hand on the wheel and it looked like he was reaching for something."

Lanigan said he then heard shots and police ordered him to get away.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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