U.S. News

10.04.13

What Pushed Miriam Carey to a Capitol Hill Tragedy?

She wasn’t supposed to be in D.C. Michael Daly on the questions about the ‘hot-tempered’ hygienist who rammed the White House gates and died with her toddler still in her carseat.

As she sprawled dying from police bullets in the shadow of the Capitol, 34-year-old dental hygienist Miriam Carey left an 18-month-old daughter and a mystery that confounded even those closest to her.

Her older sister in Brooklyn said the family was puzzled by why she was even in Washington, D.C., much less why she had crashed into a barricade outside the White House and hit a Secret Service officer, then led police on a wild chase that ended at the Capitol.

Her mother, Idella Carey, would tell ABC News that Miriam had been hospitalized for postpartum depression after the birth of her baby. The child’s father is also said to have expressed concern.

But her sister had spoken to her on Wednesday and Carey had not seemed to be upset or in any way irrational. Carey was one person who had not been speaking about the shutdown and the mess in Washington. 

But, there she was Thursday in the video the whole world was watching. The family recognized her black Infiniti with the Connecticut plates, but her postpartum depression must have been more devastating than anybody could have imagined for her to be at the wheel as the car came to a stop by the President Garfield Memorial, surrounded by cops with drawn guns and seemingly trapped until she suddenly backed up and lurched forward, breaking like in an action movie.

A college graduate with degrees in dental hygiene and nutrition who had never been arrested or in trouble and is said to be related to a retired NYPD sergeant, she then sped off with the police firing. She zoomed around Peace Circle with its pedestal topped by stone figures of History and Grief.

And what made it even harder to believe, what would make postpartum among the most insidious of disorders if it was indeed the cause, Carey had her toddler daughter in the car. Carey veered past a bollard, finally crashing into a barricade not far from a guard booth. She is said to have attempted to flee on foot as more shots rang out. She fell fatally wounded. A police officer took the uninjured child from the car.

Video screenshot

Watch raw footage of the D.C. shooting and chase, courtesy of Alhurra TV.

Weiss describes her as “hot tempered,” but is quick to add that he never saw or heard anything remotely extreme enough to explain what happened in Washington.

“The child is in good condition and in protective custody,” Chief Cathy Lanier of the Washington, D.C., Police later reported.

Lanier suggested that the incident was not the result of somebody mistakenly driving into a barricade and then panicking.

“I’m pretty confident this is not an accident,” she said.

The chief of the Capitol Police, Kim Dine, was equally confident that it was not terrorism.

“An isolated incident,” he said.

Up in Brooklyn where Carey had attended Clara Barton High School and graduated from Brooklyn College, lifelong friends were as stunned as her family.

What might prove to be small clues came from Barry Weiss, a prominent periodontist whose Advanced Periodontics in Hamden, Conn., employed her from 2011 until last year. Weiss says that Carey had been visiting a friend in New Jersey for the weekend in January 2012 when she got up in the middle of the night and slipped and fell. She suffered head injury serious enough for her to be hospitalized, which did have one result that seemed to him to make her somewhat stressed but ultimately happy.

“That was when she learned she was pregnant,” Weiss says.

Upon being discharged from the hospital, Carey was given a handicapped parking pass that she used to occupy one of only four such spots in the medical condo building where the practice is housed. The condo association finally put a note on her car asking her to take one of the other general parking spot that are plentiful at the start of the days. The reason being that a large number of elderly people with walkers and others who need handicapped parking come and go throughout the day. Carey refused.

“She wasn’t going to budge. She got all pissed off,” Weiss recalls. “She had that, ‘Who are you to tell me?’”

The association asked Weiss and his partners to speak to her.

“And that got her even more angry,” Weiss says. “She was just a headstrong, stubborn person.”

Weiss describes her a “hot-tempered. He took this to be just her temperament and says it finally led Advanced Periodontics to let her go.

“Right after she had her baby,” he says.

To be fired along with being a single mom with an unexpected pregnancy could only have compounded the postpartum depression that Carey’s mother reports. There is also that head injury.

Maybe it all was bubbling under the surface as she seemed to many people to be doing fine. She had started her own business placing hygienists with dentists and was apparently doing well enough to keep up the payments on the condo she bought in Stamford for $242,000 three years ago. She seems to have had no tax liens or judgments against her. She was never known to go into political or religious rants.

On the remote chance it had been terrorism, the Stamford Police bomb squad arrived with the other cops at the condo on Thursday. They found no explosives, but somebody did come out with a little white dog.

One blessing beyond the child’s physical well-being was that both the injured officers are expected to make a full recovery. It is worth remembering that neither the Secret Service officers nor the Capital Police involved in the chase are getting paid during this shutdown that briefly also became a lockdown.

The lockdown was lifted after just half an hour, but for Carey’s family and friends as well as the police, postpartum depression was becoming an explantion for what otherwise seemed inexplicable.