STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT – Investigators believe that a Connecticut woman who was fatally shot by police Thursday after a car chase from the White House to the Capitol had grappled with mental illness and may have believed she was surreptitiously being monitored by President Barack Obama.
Miriam Carey, 34, a dental hygienist living in Stamford, Connecticut, “may have thought President Obama was stalking her” when she steered her black Infiniti, with her 1-year-old daughter sitting in the back, onto some of America’s most highly guarded territory, according to a law enforcement official.
She had made delusional “expressions about the president in the past” and “believed there was some communications to her,” the official said, and concerns about her mental health were reported in the last year to Stamford police.
Carey had been diagnosed as having postpartum depression with psychosis, her sister, Amy Carey-Jones, said Friday on CNN, and had been treated with counseling and medication, but was reducing her use of medication under a doctor’s supervision. Carey-Jones said her sister “didn’t appear to be unstable.”
“We will never know what Miriam was thinking in those last hours before she died,” her sister said. “We can only speculate, and our real concern is why and were things done properly. Was there some other way that she could have been helped so that it didn’t end tragically?”
Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said the investigation has uncovered “a picture of a mentally disturbed woman.” Carey had been treated for schizophrenia, he said, but two of her sisters disputed his characterization.
McCaul said her condition may have been exacerbated by a recent head injury and that her boyfriend had called police to say she believed her apartment was bugged and Obama was behind it. Carey’s sisters, however, said they had never heard her say anything of that nature. Valarie Carey called the boyfriend’s account “very questionable.”
For now, the biggest mystery is whether the incident that spun out 400 km from Carey’s home was the culmination of a long, downward spiral or was sparked by some precipitating event.
Carey’s mother, Idella Carey, told ABC News that her daughter had not shown any violence in the past. She said she thought Carey was taking her toddler to a doctor’s appointment in Connecticut on Thursday.
Authorities are trying to trace Carey’s movements in Connecticut and Washington, where she apparently arrived only shortly before she approached a White House entrance and drove her car into a metal barricade just after 2 p.m. Thursday, then struck a uniformed Secret Service officer.
After speeding down Pennsylvania Avenue, she crashed at the Capitol grounds. Police scurried to carry the girl to safety after her mother was shot several times.
In the New York City suburb of Stamford, about 100 law enforcement personnel from the U.S. Secret Service, FBI, Connecticut State Police and Stamford police searched Carey’s apartment in the Woodside Green complex overnight Thursday. They removed boxes, bags and at least one computer from the sprawling complex, where a neighbor had seen Carey wheeling her daughter in a stroller.
The search involved hazardous material teams, a bomb squad and a robot, Stamford Police Chief Jonathan Fontneau said. In the end, they found just a “typical” first-floor two-bedroom apartment with “nothing out of the ordinary,” Fontneau said, and allowed evacuated residents to return to their units.
Until Thursday, the police chief said, Carey, too, “was nothing out of the ordinary that would draw attention to herself.”
Police had been called to the apartment once before, in December, but not for a criminal matter, Fontneau said. A neighbor said the tires were stolen from Carey’s car in the late spring or early summer and that Carey was somewhat upset at apartment officials about it.
“She was a little pissed off about we’re paying all the taxes and common charges we pay and [yet have] no security cameras,” the neighbor said. The encounter was the first and only time he met Carey.
The neighbor said he found Carey fairly likable. “Very well spoken,” he said. “She was obviously educated.”