The Justice Department will not press criminal charges against the U.S. Secret Service and Capitol Police officers involved in the Oct. 3 shooting death of a Connecticut woman after a car chase from the White House to Capitol Hill.
An official “declination to prosecute” is being finalized — and could be announced as early as this week — after a more than nine-month-long investigation into the police pursuit and death of Miriam Carey, 34, of Stamford, Conn., say multiple sources.
Since the shooting, the two uniformed Secret Service officers involved have remained on duty, while the two Capitol Police officers have been on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the federal review.
Justice Department officials, say sources, want to discuss their decision with the Carey family before making an announcement. Eric Sanders, a New York-based lawyer representing the Carey family and estate, confirmed Wednesday evening that department officials have set up a conference call for Thursday with himself and Carey’s sister, Valerie Carey, to discuss the case.
Sanders said he’s not surprised to hear that the officers are being cleared, but that he strongly disagrees with that decision. “I’ll listen to them respectfully,” he said.
An autopsy showed that Carey was ultimately hit by five shots while in her car, from at least two different locations on Capitol Hill: one shot to the back of her head, three in her back, and one to her left arm.
All the while, her then-14-month-old daughter was in the rear seat. The child was not wounded.
The department’s decision not to criminally prosecute the four officers will be announced along with an extensive report that explains why no such action is being taken.
Much of the soon-to-be-released Justice Department report will discuss the definitions of the legal “use of force” and why the circumstances of this incident made this — in law-enforcement parlances — a “good shoot” under those parameters.
It is expected to provide a detailed, moment-by-moment explanation of the incident.
Whether the declination to prosecute is also an indication that potential civil rights action by the department is also ruled out could not be determined. The type of investigation that has been done so far generally looks into the possibility of criminal charges, according to a department source.
Sanders, the Carey family lawyer, who is a former police officer, has already filed a preliminary wrongful-death claim against the federal government, the Secret Service, and the Capitol Police.
He says the explanation that this was a “split-second decision” by the officers does not fit what really happened, and there is no evidence the officers were defending themselves.
Rather, Sanders contends the officers “panicked” and violated regulations and standards in firing on a moving vehicle after a street encounter that began when Carey refused to stop her black Infiniti at a checkpoint near the White House and made a U-turn.
Police documents filed in federal court say the chase started near the White House after Carey drove over a bicycle rack placed in front of her vehicle by a Secret Service officer, knocking the officer to the ground. She then sped toward Capitol Hill and jumped a curb at the Garfield traffic circle, on Maryland Avenue near the Capitol reflecting pool.
Sources have said the officers thought the driver might try to drive up to the steps of the Capitol, so they surrounded the vehicle. Carey responded by putting her car in reverse and striking a police vehicle. At that point, officers from the Secret Service and Capitol Police “discharged their service weapons at the vehicle,” according to a police affidavit.
Carey then drove toward the Senate office buildings at 2nd Street and Constitution Avenue, jumped a median, and went into reverse down Maryland Avenue, again refusing to stop her car. At this point, according to the police affidavit, officers “fired several rounds into the suspect vehicle, striking decedent.”
The autopsy results showed that Carey, a dental assistant, had no drugs or alcohol in her system when she was killed.
But a legal source supportive of the authorities involved in the incident and who has knowledge of the case says an unanswered question is why she was in Washington that day.
It is not known if the Justice Department report will go into the details of her journey to the capital or the reasons for it.
Pending the official announcement, there was no comment from U.S. Capitol Police. A spokesman for the Secret Service did not immediately comment.