crimesider

Officers may have thought Miriam Carey was intent on terrorism, says expert

Miriam Carey was killed by officers after leading police on a high-speed chase in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
Evan Vucci/AP/Facebook

(CBS) - The officers who shot and killed the woman who led police on a high-speed chase through Washington, D.C. on Thursday may have thought her motive was terroristic, says a police shooting expert.

"Our nation's capital has been and continues to be a target, and people who work for the Capitol Police, the Metropolitan Police and the Secret Service understand that and have certain protocols in place" to deal with such a perceived threat, explains Prof. David Klinger of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Although U.S. Capitol Police later determined that there was no link to terrorism and that it appeared to be an isolated incident, Klinger, a former Los Angeles Police officer and the author of "Into the Kill Zone: A Cop's Eye View of Deadly Force," told CBS News' Crimesider that in the aftermath of a shooting incident, an officer's actions will be judged based on what a "reasonable officer on the scene" would have thought was occurring.

However, says Klinger, at the time a reasonable officer may well have thought that Carey was attempting to carry out a terrorist plot, given the fact that she appeared to be targeting two major centers of power: the White House and the Capitol building.

It is still unclear whether Carey was inside or outside of her black Infiniti when she was shot, but Klinger says that either way, considering her previous actions, officers may have been worried she had a bomb either on her person or in her car. "How do terrorists do things? Car bombs and suicide bombers," he said.

Because of this, Klinger says that the officers on the scene probably had "a very heightened sense of the degree of threat" and worried that Carey  - who had already injured at least one officer with her car - might be a continuing menace.

"Police are only allowed to use deadly force if they believe their life or the lives of other are in danger, or to stop a fleeing violent felon," says Klinger. "They are taught to shoot to stop the threat. Generally, that means shooting at center mass."

  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for CBSNews.com

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