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Car Chase Ends On Capitol Hill, Shots Reported


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block. This afternoon, a car chase through the heart of Washington D.C. ended with shots fired near the Capitol. Details are sketchy, but we know that around 2:00 this afternoon, authorities began pursuit of a suspect by car near the White House. That chase ended on Capitol Hill with members of Congress in their offices hearing shots fired outside.

Here's Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine, speaking minutes ago.

CHIEF KIM DINE: Both scenes are secure. We initially locked down some building in the Capitol vicinity. That lockdown has been released. We have no information that this is related to terrorism or is anything other than an isolated incident.

BLOCK: NPR's David Welna joins me now. He was in the Capitol building at the time of this incident and David, what have you learned?

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Well, Melissa, we've learned that this was, as you said, a car chase. Apparently a black sedan tried to get close to where the White House is, rammed into a barricade there. Secret Service gave chase to that car and the car headed up Pennsylvania Avenue in the direction of the U.S. Capitol, reportedly running red lights along the way, reaching speeds of up to 80 miles an hour.

It passed the Capitol building on Constitution Avenue and about a block passed the Capitol, that car ran into a barricade, crashed into a barricade. At that point, by reports, the driver, who was a woman, got out of the car and Capitol police were given the order to fire upon her and it's not clear what kinds of injuries she sustained, but she apparently was shot.

A U.S. Capitol policeman was also injured. A policeman told me he was injured not by gunfire, but rather by the car crash itself. And right now, it's not clear what the status of the suspect is. The policeman has been evacuated to a hospital.

BLOCK: Now, we heard from the brief news conference a few minutes ago from Capitol police, anymore details about the suspect, who she was, anybody else in the car?

WELNA: They were not able to give any information about the suspect. They said that they could not give any report on the condition of the person in the car. In fact, Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said that shots were potentially fired. Well, that's not the case from eye witnesses. They said shots definitely were fired. I spoke with Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly, a Democrat, who was out on the balcony of the Capitol speaking with another congressman about the shutdown.

And he said, suddenly they noticed that there was noise outside.

REPRESENTATIVE GERRY CONNOLLY: We suddenly heard this burst of something that initially you think fireworks and then it quickly dawns on you, that's gunfire. We saw, you know, tourists and citizens pulling this way.

WELNA: So yeah, many people on the hill heard these gunshots, no idea what was going on and it's not clear whether there was an exchange of gunfire or if it was only coming from the Capitol police.

BLOCK: And David, of course, all of this taking place on the third day of a government shutdown, a huge amount of political wrangling over who's to blame for that.

WELNA: Yes. And this happened while the House was actually voting on many appropriations bills aimed at keeping certain popular parts of the federal government going and all the talk in the corridors outside the House chamber was about the shutdown and suddenly, Capitol police were shoving me and other reporters into the House chamber itself, saying, take shelter, take shelter.

And the chamber was shut down. It was surreal. We realized that suddenly the Capitol had been shut down. Three days into the shutdown, this place has been operating, but it was this incident that shut it down. The mood instantly changed here. Lawmakers who were wrangling before were suddenly talking to each other. I don't know how long that will last.

BLOCK: Okay. NPR's David Welna at the Capitol. David, thanks.

WELNA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.
As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
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