STAMFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut woman who was fatally shot outside the U.S. Capitol after trying to ram her car through a White House barrier had been under the delusion the president was communicating with her, a federal law enforcement official said Friday.
The womans family said she had been suffering from postpartum depression with psychosis.
Miriam Careys killing at the hands of police Thursday was Washingtons second major spasm of deadly violence involving an apparently unstable person in 2 1/2 weeks.
On Sept. 16, Aaron Alexis killed 12 people in a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard before dying in a gunbattle with police.
Interviews with some of those who knew the 34-year-old woman suggested she was coming apart well before she loaded her 1-year-old daughter into the car for the drive to Washington. Carey suffered a head injury in a fall and had been fired as a dental hygienist, according to her former employer.
The federal law enforcement official, who had been briefed about the investigation but was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said investigators were interviewing Careys family about her mental state and examining writings found in her Stamford condominium.
We are seeing serious degradation in her mental health, certainly within the last 10 months, since December, ups and downs, the official said. Our working theory is her mental health was a significant driver in her unexpected presence in D.C. yesterday.
Carey believed President Barack Obama was communicating to her, the official said.
Those communications were, of course, in her head, the official said, adding that concerns about her mental health were reported in the past year to Stamford police.
Stamford Police Chief Jonathan Fontneau said his officers had gone to Careys home in the past, though not in response to any crime.
The federal official said investigators believe that she drove straight to the nations capital and that the violence unfolded immediately upon her arrival.
After ramming the barricades at the White House, the apparently unarmed Carey led police on a chase to the Capitol, where she was shot in a harrowing chain of events that led to a brief lockdown of Congress. Careys daughter escaped serious injury and was taken into protective custody.
Careys neighbors in Stamford were shocked to learn the drivers identity and see her car wrecked outside the Capitol in TV footage.
Erin Jackson, her next-door neighbor on the buildings ground floor, said Carey doted on her daughter, Erica.
She was pleasant. She seemed very happy with her daughter, very proud of her daughter, she said. I just never would have anticipated this in a million years.
Careys mother, Idella Carey, said that her daughter began suffering from postpartum depression after giving birth in August 2012.
She was depressed. ... She was hospitalized, said Idella Carey. She said her daughter had no history of violence.
Experts say symptoms of postpartum depression include lack of interest in the baby; mood swings between sadness and irritability; scary thoughts of something bad happening to the baby; and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts – but not delusions.
In contrast, a condition known as postpartum psychosis can come with hallucinations, paranoia and desires to hurt the child. But it is extremely rare and does not tend to last for a year, experts say.