Was shooting the White House driver justifiable?

We’re slowly learning more today about Miriam Carey, the Connecticut woman that tried to ram her way through a layer of security near the White House yesterday, before leading officers on a high-speed pursuit that ended with her shooting death.


We are now hearing that officers that served a search warrant on her home found Carey medications used to treat schizophrenia, and other news reports suggest that she thought President Obama was stalking her. It is reasonable to assume that a combination of mental illness and fear clouded her judgement on what proved to be the last day of her life.

The media’s “experts”—once they couldn’t find a Tea Party/NRA/old-white-male angle to report—decided to then Monday morning quarterback the response of law enforcement agencies who finally cornered Carey, and then shot her in her vehicle.

The L.A. Times writer Matt Pearce asks When to shoot? Capitol shooting raises questions about force.

CNN’s Matt Weinblatt, himself a former police chief, asks, Did D.C. cops have to shoot to kill?

The simple and honest answer the question of whether or not Carey should have been shot is not just, “we don’t know,” but “we can’t know.”

While the early part of the chase was caught on camera and flashed across millions of television sets yesterday and today, there isn’t any publicly-known video footage of the end of the chase that shows where her car came to rest, or what Carey and the officers pursuing her were doing in the last moments of the pursuit.


If Carey was still attempting to flee, and her vehicle posed a threat to another officer (she’d already clipped one Secret Service officer on foot outside the White House in the initial incident), then responding officers made the split-second decision to shoot to stop the threat, and that decision to shoot was most likely justifiable.

It comes down to a perception acquired in an instant. We hope that the officer or officers who fired was right to do so, but until (and unless) they release the details of the investigation, the best we can honestly say is that it appears to have been justified under the totality of the circumstances.

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