A harrowing car chase from the White House to the U.S. Capitol ended when a woman was shot and killed by police officers Thursday, causing lockdowns at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and heightening tensions in a city hit in recent weeks by a mass shooting and partial government shutdown.
One Capitol police officer was taken to the hospital after his car crashed into a barricade. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said the 23-year veteran was “doing fine.” A 1-year-old child in the car with the woman also was taken to the hospital.
“This appears to be an isolated, singular matter with, at this point, no nexus to terrorism,” Dine said.
District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier would not discuss the woman’s possible motives at an evening news conference.
“This does not appear to be in any way an accident,” Lanier said. “This was a lengthy pursuit. There were multiple vehicles that were rammed. There were officers that were struck and two security perimeters that were attempted to be breached.”
Compelling video captured by Alhurra TV — a federally funded Arabic-language broadcaster — showed a black Infiniti with Connecticut plates reverse course and escape after being blocked in by a pair of Capitol police vehicles. As the officers opened fire, the car sped away.
The chase ended a few blocks away with another burst of gunfire.
The frenzied scene played out against the backdrop of the government shutdown, which has been in effect since Tuesday, leaving many government offices and tourist attractions shuttered because Congress and President Barack Obama have not agreed on a federal spending plan.
Capitol police have remained on the job in the shutdown, but their paychecks have been delayed.
The chase also came 2 1/2 weeks after a gunman killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, about a mile and a half southeast of the Capitol.
“This just adds to the very tense atmosphere around here,” said Joan Kirchner, deputy chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter was interviewing U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, a Lawrenceville Republican, about the shutdown outside the Capitol when a series of gunshots rang out from the other side of the building.
Capitol police officers sprinted toward the onlookers — which included several House members leaving the floor after a vote, as well as reporters, tourists and protesters — and urged them to move away from the gunfire.
“I hope this is a mistake,” Woodall said, recounting the time that a car rolling over a steel grate was mistaken for gunshots.
Then a second burst of gunfire echoed from near the Supreme Court building, the apparent finale of the chase, revealing that this was no mistake. A large group of tourists in matching T-shirts ran away from the shots as all passers-by were herded southward.
The order went out immediately through the Capitol complex to “shelter in place,” meaning huddle in an office with no windows.
Isakson was doing a television interview about the government shutdown in the Russell Senate Office Building, on Constitution Avenue across the street from the Capitol. Kirchner sent a staffer to retrieve him and his press secretary.
“We locked every door to our suite, pulled the blinds down on every window and sheltered in place,” Kirchner said. It was her, Isakson and five other staffers; the rest of the office’s workers had been furloughed.
“We stayed locked inside the room for about 30 minutes until the Capitol police gave us the all clear,” she said. “We had the TV on trying to get details from the news, and we were all on our Blackberries seeking any details.”
Matt Chavez, visiting from Idaho, was walking near the west side of the Capitol with a friend when he saw the chase unfold. Two Capitol police cars, he said, tried to pin down the Infiniti as it went through a roundabout near the Capitol.
Then he heard shots and hit the grass.
“We couldn’t really pay attention,” Chavez said. “We had to hide from stray bullets and stuff.”
Congress went back to work before long, as the House passed a bill to fund veterans’ benefits during the shutdown.
The vote was mostly party-line, as Democrats demand Republicans reopen the full government at once with a short-term spending bill and Republicans refuse to do so without exacting some concessions related to the new health care law.
But when House leaders from both parties thanked the Capitol police from the House floor, the standing ovation was unanimous.
Staff writer Nancy Badertscher contributed to this article.