DC Shooting: Shame on You New York Daily News

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Miriam Carey, killed by police yesterday in Washington, DC. Credit: Facebook

UPDATE: More grist: “law enforcement sources” now telling NBC News that Carey, “may have thought that President Barack Obama was stalking her.” Old boss tells NBC affiliate that she was fired from old job for being “too rough” with dental patients.

UPDATE 10/6: Little more is known about Carey or what happened on Thursday. Stories emerge that suggest she was taken in for a “mental health evaluation” last December. More troubling are reports that she was shot inside her car. Remember, initial news flashes said Carey had emerged from her vehicle after crashing it on the Capitol Grounds, suggesting she might have acted aggressively toward awaiting police. Thankfully, some Beltway writers are showing more skepticism toward the cops’ version of events today.

The New York Daily News should be ashamed, as well as any other news outfit that has jumped to conclusions in favor of the mentally-ill-woman-police-were-just-doing-their-jobs-and-by-the-way-they’re-heroes-we-live-in-a-scary-world storyline. But the New York City paper, known for dwarfing word space and actual copy with hyperbolic Citizen Kane headlines and even bigger paparazzi photography, takes the prize for reporting on yesterday’s shooting of an unarmed mother on Capitol Hill.

There was horror on the Hill when a crazed Connecticut woman who tried to ram her way into the White House was shot and killed Thursday after leading police on a high-speed chase through the heart of Washington.

Now we know someone is trying to earn their hard-boiled, wiseguy writing chops here, but step off Lee Tracy, this account is so far from reality that it goes beyond Big Apple embellishment. It’s just plain wrong. There is no evidence, yet, that 34-year-old Miriam Carey of Stamford, Connecticut, who has been identified as the dead woman, tried to “ram the gates of the White House,” which the Daily News and a host of irresponsible news reports charged willy-nilly on Thursday. As for being “crazed,” there is some thread of unknown origin that Carey had been suffering from “mental illness,” “mental issues,” “depression” and/or  “post-pardum depression” (the last two were from the Daily News gumshoes who stalked Carey’s family in New York Thursday night, snapping photos of their weary faces from across the street).

Simply put, from all the interviews I’ve scanned on the story — some of the most authoritative reporting I’ve seen so far has been from The Washington Post — the  best picture I can get is that Carey was a dutiful dental hygienist, who was generally liked, and for some unknown reason drove down to Washington with her one-year-old daughter in a luxury car, where she led police on a deadly high-speed chase.

Meanwhile, eye-witness accounts and raw video tell a different story about “crazed woman” in the Infiniti sedan. It looks like she might have made a wrong turn down a cordoned street (of which there are many) around the White House (though to be entirely fair, the DC police chief says it was no “accident,” but has offered no details to that end). She was yelled at, according to witnesses, by a plain-clothed guard and others who banged on the hood of her car. She freaked, hit the guard and a makeshift barricade that was put in her way, then tried to turn around and flee. Shots were fired at her car and the chase ensued. It ended in a hail of bullets when Carey emerged from the car (see UPDATE), outside the Hart Office Building on Capitol Hill (not far away), reportedly unarmed. From Time:

B.J. Campbell, 69, a tourist visiting from Portland, Ore., said he saw the black car drive past White House security. Officers began “banging on the car, yelling at her,” Campbell told TIME. One tried to use a bicycle rack to box in the vehicle, but the car spun around and rammed into the rack and hit the officer, who was not wearing a uniform. The officer, whom the Associated Press identified as a Secret Service agent, was knocked onto the hood of the car and rolled off onto the street, according to Campbell. However, another witness said the officer got up and did not appear to be injured.

No evidence yet has been provided, save for rumors, that she was “crazed,” or that she was trying to “ram the barricades” in some Kamikaze-style mission to wreak havoc on “the heart of our nation,” which, frankly, is how the blaring headlines sounded the alarms here in Washington yesterday when the facts were still fuzzy. Capitol Hill was on lock down, with everyone — last month’s horrific Navy Yard shootings no doubt fresh on their minds — fearing the worst. Washington, the city under siege. The media, which is always in the same place at the same time on Capitol Hill, swarmed the crime scene. But it turned out not to be the work of terrorists at all, but an unarmed black mother whose side of the story, essentially, will go to her grave.

Meanwhile, beyond the garish headlines and the applause — yes, the police got a “standing ovation” from members of the House of Representatives afterwards, ostensibly for riddling a woman’s car and body with bullets  — we know nothing except a woman is dead and her child, motherless.

The police will no doubt be excused for engaging in a dangerous high speed chase through the streets of Washington, endangering pedestrians and the child inside (there are confusing reports about whether they saw the baby inside before she left the White House area or not) and then shooting Carey dead. This is a post-9/11 world, where she could have easily been careening toward the Capitol, armed with a trunk full of explosives, right? The truth is, more people are killed by cops each year than terrorists have attacked our cities. We need to get to the bottom of what happened to Miriam Carey, and keep the terror bugaboo out of it. And please, New York Daily News, stop acting like a law enforcement apparatchik, just do your job and report the facts. If they’re not readily available, don’t make them up.

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