WASHINGTON — The woman shot to death after a police chase from the White House to Capitol Hill had been suffering from mental health issues, according to federal law enforcement officials, including postpartum depression after her daughter was born and a troubling fixation on President Obama.
Miriam Carey’s declining mental stability, the sources said, developed into a belief that the president was “controlling” her life, which may explain why she appeared Thursday afternoon next to the White House and then led Secret Service agents and Washington police on a two-mile, three-minute chase down Pennsylvania Avenue. Along the way, two officers were injured.
“She thought that the president had her apartment under surveillance,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told the Los Angeles Times. “That must have prompted her trip to Washington and her attempt to visit the White House.”
Carey’s sister, Amy, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday, “We will never know what Miriam was thinking in those last hours before she died. We can only speculate.”
She said her sister experienced postpartum depression “with psychosis … which came along with treatment and medication and counseling…. She had her challenges as a new parent. I am a parent. I have two children. … There was nothing out of the ordinary. She didn’t appear to be unstable.”
But Amy Carey also asked, “Was there some other way that she could have been helped so it didn’t end tragically?”
McCaul said, however, that the police “didn’t really have much of a choice, given the way she was driving.”
“At the time, they don’t know who she is, what her motivation is,” he said. “When I talk to the FBI or Secret Service, they’re just amazed that she could drive at 80 mph down Pennsylvania Avenue and not hit a car…. When you’re traveling like that, and you’re erratic … there’s plenty of pedestrians that could be killed.
“Plus, the threat to the White House raises the stakes. And then this car was seen around the Capitol grounds. That raises the stakes even higher.”
Members of Miriam Carey’s family were in Washington on Friday afternoon to identify the body and planned to issue a written statement Friday night in Brooklyn, N.Y.
McCaul, who was briefed by authorities Friday, said he was told that Carey had a history of apparent mental problems. She had been hospitalized, and her boyfriend had called police to express concern about her behavior.
McCaul said that authorities searching her Stamford, Conn., apartment found an envelope with a white powder. They said they were testing the substance “out of an abundance of caution.”
In Bloomfield, Conn., a former neighbor of Carey’s boyfriend, Eric Francis, talked about seeing Carey’s car a lot in the neighborhood.
Emmanuel Ayettey told The Times that Francis lived on his street — Valley View — for more than 10 years until five months ago, when his house was foreclosed upon.
Ayettey, 45, said that when news of a shooting in the Capitol broke Thursday, he immediately recognized the black Infiniti on television reports.
“I had seen it all the time at his house,” Ayettey said. “The lady came roughly on the weekends — on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Ayettey said he did not know Carey very well, but he called her boyfriend Francis a friend.
“We organized parties together,” Ayettey said. “He blows his horn to wave to me. We talked about everything — what we see around. He’s a nice guy. Very down to earth.”
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill used Thursday’s incident to press for an agreement to end the government shutdown, noting that the Capitol police who responded are not being paid.
“Today we are wearing buttons that say thank you to the Capitol Police,’’ said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). “This is a nice gesture, but we should also think about the hypocrisy of this. It is time for the United States Congress to not just pass out buttons saying thank you, but pass out paychecks to the Capitol Police officers who are protecting us and not getting paid during this shutdown.”’
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said the incident showed how urgent it is for Congress to pass her legislation that would expand mental healthcare. “After each one of these tragedies, everyone talks about improving mental health services in America,’’ she said. “It’s time to finally take action to do that.”
Times staff writer Matt Hamilton, in Los Angeles, contributed to this report.