Miriam Carey, 34, was not armed and apparently was suffering from postpartum depression when she sent Washington, DC, police on a car chase yesterday afternoon that resulted in Carey dying in a hail of police bullets.
We will never know why the 34-year-old tried to use her black Infiniti as a battering ram and attempt to drive through barricades into the White House, or why she turned around and flew down Pennsylvania Avenue at 80 miles per hour—all while her one-year-old baby was in the car!
The reason we’ll never know is because when she emerged from her car, unarmed, after hitting a barrier outside of the Capitol building, she was hit by so many bullets that authorities said it was difficult to identify her body. The police fired a hail of bullets at her—all while her one-year-old baby was in the car!
It is true that two officers were injured by Carey’s out-of-control Infiniti, but I’ll never understand in these situations why police officers found it necessary to empty their guns into the unarmed woman’s body after she emerged from her vehicle. Was that really necessary to subdue her, particularly since she was no longer in the Infiniti, which was actually serving as her weapon in this case? It would be akin to opening up on her after she dropped her weapon to the ground.
But as these cases go, we can predict that we will never get any answers to these questions, not when officers were hurt and she was aiming the car at the White House and the Capitol building. Not when Washington was already tense from the spectacularly stupid government shutdown. Not two weeks after Aaron Alexis killed 12 inside the Washington Navy Yard and apparently died himself in a hail of police bullets.
All we have to go on to try to guess Carey’s motives are the statements of her mother, Idella Carey, who told ABC News that her daughter “had post-partum depression after having [a] baby” last August.
“A few months later, she got sick,” the mother said. “She was depressed. … She was hospitalized.”
We also got a bit of intel on the mental state of Carey, a dental hygienist in Connecticut, from her former boss, Dr. Barry J. Weiss. Weiss told The New York Times that he and his partner fired Carey from their periodontics practice last year after 15 months because she couldn’t get along with the other employees in the small office.
“When we confronted her about certain situations within the office, she had a temper,” Dr. Weiss said.
We shouldn’t have to say it, but it’s been well-documented that postpartum depression is a serious illness, not to be dismissed or taken lightly. In a piece for Fox News, Dr. Manny Alvarez estimates that postpartum depression affects between 15 to 20 percent of new mothers and can range from mild depression to a “full psychotic episode.”
“Through the course of my experience as an obstetrician dealing with high-risk pregnancies, I have seen these psychotic episodes with my own eyes,” Alvarez said. “During these episodes, women lose the ability to behave rationally, to the point where they truly do not understand what they are doing. Many times, this puts the patient at risk for committing a crime or injuring themselves.”
In many states, doctors are now required to ask new mothers how they are feeling. Anyone who has had a child knows how tense and stressful those early days are, even for mothers who are surrounded by help and support systems. For single mothers, the burden can be overwhelming.
“Many women suffer in silence from postpartum depression for fear of embarrassment or sometimes because of the guilt they may feel about their symptoms, especially when they have a newborn at home,” Alvarez said. “It is important to bring awareness to this issue.”
Researchers released a study in 2006 that found African-American women were more likely than women of other races to suffer from postpartum depression.
Even when “important social factors such as age, income, education, marital status, and baby’s health were controlled, African American women still emerged with significantly increased risk for…PPD,” according to the findings of the study led by researcher Lisa Segre.
Thankfully, Carey’s one-year-old baby was unharmed in the incident. She was taken to the hospital by authorities and apparently is fine.
The second-youngest in a churchgoing family of five daughters, Carey grew up in an apartment building on Stanley Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn. Her sister Franchette, who still lives in the apartment with their mother, told the New York Times that she saw Carey this week and she seemed fine.
Though her mother said she had post-partum depression, the mother said Miriam had no history of violence.
Michael Brown, 33, a longtime friend who said he saw Carey on Tuesday evening when she picked up her daughter from her mother’s, said Carey was known for stylish jeans that she wore with combat boots.
Brown described the pretty 34-year-old woman as “a catch.”
We’ll never know why she snapped. And because the officers took the action they did, her daughter will never have the answers she will desperately want one day.
Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, including the upcoming "The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path To American Leadership," which he co-authored with Al Sharpton.