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Columns : The Federal Voice

Deadly Force in D.C.

The officers who responded to the Capitol pursuit did what they had to do and their actions were justified.

November 21, 2013  |  by Jon Adler

Law enforcement's use of deadly force at the end of the Oct. 3 U.S. Capitol pursuit may not satisfy the mainstream media or other second guessers, but it was the proper response.

Based on what we know publicly, a volatile subject attempted to breach a White House security barrier by ramming a black Infiniti sedan into it. When the subject failed, he or she rammed a responding radio car and struck a Secret Service agent. The subject then exposed the officers to great risk by driving away at high speed in a reckless manner. Minutes later the subject crashed his or her vehicle into a U.S. Capitol Police barricade. Officers stopped the potentially lethal threat by appropriately deploying their firearms.

Notice my reference to the individual who initiated the lethal scenario as “the subject" and not identifying her gender or name, both of which are now well known. I’m doing that for a very important reason: The officers facing the threat did not know her identity or maybe even her gender during the incident. They just knew they were dealing with a subject who was presenting a deadly threat at the time.

Responding officers were confronted by a potentially lethal, unknown threat, rather than a young attractive woman with her child in the rear seat. But inevitably, the news media's bias drew upon the subject's gender and appearance to criticize the level of force used.

No one envies the officers who were on scene during the initial and final attacks. We don't know whether the officers were able to see the child in the back seat, especially considering window visibility factors. The officers demonstrated remarkable restraint when the subject first attempted to breach the security using her vehicle as a lethal weapon.

The presence of the child should be viewed as a potential victim of the subject's lethal behavior, and the officers should be commended for rescuing her without injury. History has shown us that subjects exuding irrational, lethal behavior have exploited children to accomplish their deadly objectives. The presence of a child, as heart wrenching as it may be, doesn't reduce the level of threat posed by the subject.

In terms of the use of deadly force, federal law enforcement officers follow the same policy and concept. We discharge our weapons as a last resort to stop a potentially lethal threat and prevent serious bodily injury or loss of life.

Based on what is known, the officers used the appropriate level of force considering their reasonable perception of the threat level initiated by the subject, Miriam Carey, 34. Carey’s use of the Infiniti, and the fact that she rammed government property and federal officers, posed a potentially lethal threat to the officers. She also posed a lethal threat to the public in the immediate area, including her child.

While it was obvious Carey used her vehicle in a hazardous manner to gain unauthorized entry to government property, there was no way to discern whether the vehicle contained any explosive material or other weapons that could have fatally wounded the officers or bystanders. Officers assess available threat indicators in micro-seconds and react accordingly.

Critics often ask why officers didn't shoot at the tires. The answer is that law enforcement tactics don't follow Hollywood fiction. They must work in the real world. Warning shots and shots at tires are usually prohibited by agency policy because they pose a greater threat to those in the immediate area. Shooting at tires would create a dangerous ricochet swarm that exposes anyone in the immediate area to significant risk.

The officers should be commended for their performance. The second-guessing, "could have" committee will draw upon the subject's publicized mental health history, and somehow suggest the officers should have known this and tempered their response. That's nonsense. There's no pause button for an officer to hit while being confronted by a lethal threat. Law enforcement officers receive training on how to deal with subjects with known mental illness, but in this situation, the officers needed to objectively assess what was known at the time of the attacks and respond appropriately.

While the loss of this young woman’s life is regrettable, it's fortuitous that no law enforcement officers or innocent civilians were killed. The Secret Service and Capitol Police have a very dangerous job, and they carry out their respective high-risk missions with the utmost degree of professionalism. I applaud them for their unwavering service to our country, and for confronting volatile subjects to keep us safe.

Tags: U.S. Capitol Police, U.S. Capitol Pursuit


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Jon @ 11/28/2013 2:07 PM

I have to disagree with the authors conclusion. After failing an attempt to ram a White House barrier and hitting other obstacles, she's stopped by a barrier, whereupon "Officers stopped the POTENTIALLY lethal threat by appropriately deploying their firearms."

Legal and ethical use of deadly force requires ability, opportunity and intent at the time of the use of force. You CANNOT shoot someone based on what they did a few minutes ago! The word for that is execution, and it has NO PLACE in American law enforcement. She was unarmed when they shot her, and to my knowledge there has never been any attempt to claim they saw a weapon. No visible weapon, obviously then no attempted attack with a weapon, her car is stopped, she's not even in it anymore-where the hell is the ability? It was murder, plain and simple, and the attempt to whitewash this is one of the reasons your community is losing credibility with the general American public. Nobody wants that. You must do better than this.

Serpico @ 11/29/2013 9:51 PM

Speaking of Deadly Force. With all the Thousands of Good Cops in the USA. How come they've been Silent about what an Assault Weapon is? How come the Police, and the Police Unions haven't explained to POTUS Obama and Congress. What an Assault Weapon is? A FULLY AUTO rifle with three settings, 3 RD Burst, Full Auto and Semi Auto. How come LEO's stay silent? And help the Gov. Exploit tragedy for personal gain? The Semi-Auto's Civilians use are hardly Assault weapons. There are video's from the '90's where a Tank goes loose in LA. And LEO's are out flanked. All the Gov. had to do is call in the Nat. Guard to Fire a Missile at the Tank. Then we wouldn't have a Police State. Government property is TAXPAYER property not King Obama! Miriam Carey was confused and wrong. But we don't need a Republican Guard like Sadam Hussein in DC. Only under the name of BHO! You can do better! The Political Class in DC have maid $ though illegal means. They are OC! R or D all the same OC Bank$ter puppets!

Lt. Nick DeMarco @ 12/13/2013 5:35 AM

I agree with the author...... The problem with this incident is that the suspects' sister came forward after the fact and stated that "They didn't have to kill her"...and she gave value to her statement by revealing that she was a "former New York City Police Officer". Now I realize that she was speaking from emotion, but my question is "Where was she to make sure that her sister keep on taking her meds and not placing herself, her child, and those Federal Law Enforcement Officers in peril because of her actions?"

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