Nightly News   |  October 03, 2013

Woman who sped toward US Capitol shot and killed

Investigators say the woman at the center of the incident did not have a gun, and the only shots were fired by police.  They are searching a home in Connecticut and interviewing anyone who knew her, working to explain why she suddenly rushed away after being stopped. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. we were in the midst of day three of the government shutdown when much more urgent, more dire news came out of the nation's capital this afternoon. a report of shots fired, people wounded on capitol hill following a high speed chase starting near the white house through the city alongside the famous landmarks. a woman was at the wheel of a black infinity coupe with her toddler in the car. she briefly stopped and was surrounded by officers with weapons drawn. here is the scene as recorded by the camera crew on capitol hill . it all ended a short distance away. tonight the driver, a woman from stanford, connecticut , is dead. her 1-year-old daughter in protective police custody . think about this. the u.s. capitol police who responded aren't being paid because of the government shutdown . a crisis atmosphere in washington on top of what's already going on there. it's where we begin tonight with our justice correspondent pete williams in our d.c. newsroom. pete, good evening .

>> reporter: good evening. this unfolded quickly in a city that's still jumpy from the shooting at the washington navy yard a few weeks ago. the woman at the center of it all did not have a gun. the only shots were fired by law enforcement officers . investigators are working to explain why a woman who had been stop bid capitol police suddenly rushed away as police opened fire. [ gunshots ]

>> reporter: undeterred by gunfire for reasons officials have yet to understand, she kept on driving, leading a chase in the streets around the u.s. capitol as authorities put the area on lockdown and rushed tourists and others away. the security scare began around 2:15 when a car driven by a woman from connecticut hit a security barrier at a checkpoint that rings the white house . for reasons not clear the woman drove off at a high speed pursued by uniformed officers of the secret service .

>> this unauthorized vehicle approached the checkpoint. our officers acted appropriately. the vehicle then fled. in fleeing it struck one of the officers as it departed the initial scene.

>> reporter: she drove up pennsylvania avenue , going through red lights , reaching a speed of more than 80 miles an hour, officials say, and heading -- for some reason -- toward the u.s. capitol . the one area of the city with the heaviest police presence on the street s. capitol police managed to stop the car at the foot of capitol hill , but officials say the driver then backed up and sped away as the officers opened fire. the driver continued speeding on the streets near the capitol. moments later the car crashed outside a senate office building . police again fired shots.

>> it was like a series of maybe five or six. then a pause. then a few more. that was it.

>> i hear boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom as, you know, the gun fire is unloading.

>> reporter: she was later pronounced dead. a capitol policeman was injured when his car hit a barrier in chaos of the chase. an infant was in the woman's car but wasn't injured. police are searching a home in connecticut they believe the connected to the woman. investigators are searching her car and interviewing anyone who knew her looking for a motive. tonight several law enforcement and congressional officials say the woman they identify as 34-year-old miriam kerry had a history of mental issues. they are now working to determine why she was in washington and why she headed for the white house in the first place. brian?

>> pete williams in our d.c. newsroom tonight with the latest. pete, thanks.