Miriam Carey is dead, and you could be next. America, we worry about you

Miriam Carey, killed by crazy cops and then smeared by the press

Miriam Carey, killed by crazy cops and then smeared by the press. Credit: AllVoices.com

By: Sophie McAdam,

True Activist.

To those of us outside the USA, the no-questions-asked execution of Miriam Carey exposed two chilling American anomalies: trigger-happy cops and corporate journalists who refuse to ask tough questions.

Last Thursday, a respectable 34 year-old dental hygienist was gunned down in front of her baby for failing to stop at a security checkpoint in Washington during the government shutdown. Her reasons for doing so remain unclear, but rather than opening a debate on unchecked federal power, mainstream media has instead focused only on allegations that Carey was mentally ill.

But there are two aspects of this tragic incident that are far more worrying than Carey´s emotional health. One is the shocking ´shoot first, ask questions later´ attitude of US police officers, the other is mainstream media´s complicity to hide facts and divert attention when these abuses of power occur.

In Britain, my home country, police serve the people, not the state, and they don´t routinely carry guns. Assuming Miriam Carey made an honest mistake, the conversation across the pond might have gone something like this:
“Excuse me madam, you can´t pass that barrier, please turn around.”
“Oh, sorry officer, I was a little confused.”
“No problems, have a nice day.”

Instead, cops were given a standing ovation by Congress and immediately lauded as ´heroes´ by the press for killing a woman who could quite easily have been dealt with another way- had those ´brave´ police officers simply employed a few basic social skills. Sadly, I guess American cops don´t get training on how to effectively diffuse situations through old-school communication techniques.

In other (supposedly) civilized Western democracies, there would be absolutely no excuse- ever- to kill an unarmed woman in front of her baby instead of first dealing with the situation in a diplomatic way. Those officers would have been suspended pending an investigation by an independent police complaints commission, and the event would have justifiably sparked anger on the streets, in the press, and even in the corridors of power.

As a mother, I´ve been trying to imagine what I would have done in Carey´s situation as she was stopped at a checkpoint by four armed officers who immediately surrounded her vehicle, jamming their rifles through the car windows and terrorizing her small daughter. While there´s no doubt that speeding away from the scene was a huge mistake on Carey´s part, it´s also probable that her maternal instinct- together with sheer terror at the aggressive reaction of screaming, gung-ho officers- caused her to take flight for little Erin´s safety. One eyewitness has claimed Carey was shot after the baby was removed from her vehicle.

See, the sad truth is that if the police don´t terrify you, you haven´t been paying attention to the chilling number of abuse of power cases by SWAT teams against innocent, supposedly free Americans.

According to Jane Stevens, childhood trauma expert, founder and editor of ACEsTooHigh and ACEsConnection.com: “It doesn’t matter that the baby can’t put words to it. Loud sounds, screaming, fast movements all provoke the startle response, and this was long and drawn out enough to escalate into a traumatic event that will greatly affect that child.” Stevens tells me that Carey´s daughter Erin “is likely to have issues that will appear later in life, and will need constant reassurance and hefty resilience-building.”

So here´s the point: even if Carey had posed a serious threat, surely 44 armed, trained and supposedly professional police officers could have diffused the situation without denying an innocent child its right to a mother? Couldn´t they have shot out her tires? Couldn´t they have arrested her and followed traditional legal processes, y´know, the ones that exist to ensure that citizens get their constitutional right to a fair trial?

Apparently not in the land of the free, where a police spokesperson was quick to deflect tough questions by claiming Carey was suffering from post-partum depression. As usual, the media played ball, obsessing over Carey´s mental health rather than asking why on earth the police were allowed to get away with her murder.

Back up, America. One in four American women uses anti-depressants. A worrying figure, yes, but one which should make Carey´s alleged pill-popping pretty insignificant to the blatant injustice of her fate.

And while Carey´s mother did admit her daughter was suffering from post-partum depression, the same story by ABC quotes Dr. Steven Oken- reported to be Carey´s boss of eight years- describe her as someone who was “always happy”. He added: “I would never in a million years believe that she would do something like this. It’s the furthest thing from anything I would think she would do, especially with her child in the car. I am floored that it would be her.”

To back up the insanity claims, mainstream journalists then fell over themselves to hunt down Carey´s former employer, dentist Brian Evans, who said that Carey had suffered a head injury in a fall while working for him and had later been fired. (Some reports claim for being too rough with the patients, others state Evans is tight-lipped about the reason why.)

So who should we believe? Carey´s friends, sister and employer insist she was ´not political´ , but rather ´friendly, sweet, nurturing, dedicated, professional, and focused´. Miriam Carey sounds like a pretty normal all-American gal to me. And yet in just three days since the fatal shooting, Carey´s mild label of ´depression´ has been replaced by much stronger words such as ´psychosis´and ´delusion´.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said the investigation has uncovered “a picture of a mentally disturbed woman.” He said Carey had been treated for schizophrenia, but her family strongly denied it and said she was not dangerous or unstable. They are now calling for justice and police accountability.

The character and reputation of a dead woman who can´t defend herself is being defamed in a grotesquely unethical way. We are expected to believe, contrary to everything her loved ones say about her, that Carey was convinced President Obama was spying on her- an ironic suggestion of insanity in light of the Snowden revelations, but hey, we´re supposed to have forgotten all that by now…

So how would this story have been reported before 9/11, before the world gave up its freedom for security, before the sweeping paranoia of terrorism made us take leave of our senses (not to mention our empathy)?

I started journalism school in the chaotic days following the Twin Tower attacks. A typical training exercise would be to give us one minute to create a headline from a list of story facts. Using the golden rule of newsworthiness, what happened in Washington on Thursday should have provoked front-page spreads along the lines of ´Baby taken, unarmed mother shot dead by police in security breach.´ Anything less and you´d fail the test.

Thursday´s headlines were all variations of the intentionally vague ´Shooting at Capitol Hill´, followed by initial news reports so craftily written that they caused much confusion over who the shooter was- and led many to falsely believe that Carey had fired the first shot.

I´d love for those news reporters, columnists and commentators working for the global media monopolies to stop and ask themselves why they got into this work in the first place. Was it to report the truth and hold those in power accountable to the people and the constitution, or was it was to further your own interests and kiss government ass?

With the exception of those working for independent publications free from shareholder pressure, I´m beginning to think traditional journalism- asking questions, digging for the truth, pissing off the authorities if that´s what it takes- is dead. The mainstream media industry seems to have reached a crisis point, and old-school hacks who believe in truth, factual reporting and holding those in power to account are now in the minority.

The attack on The Guardian´s Glenn Greenwald after the Snowden leaks  is a great example of what one writer recently coined The Journalists against Journalism Club.  Telling the truth certainly ain´t easy in a world where most of us glean all our information from giant global media monopolies owned by just a handful of powerful billionaires- often with shady ties to government, as I recently investigated here.

Censorship of anything that could prove damaging to the establishment, attention diversion from the bigger picture through obsession and hysteria over trivialities, blind acceptance and regular repetition of official statements by anonymous sources and news agencies, and a complete unwillingness to ask questions on behalf of the public have been standard practice by the big media players for a long time now.

Whether Miriam Carey was mentally ill or not is absolutely irrelevant to the miscarriage of justice that took place on Thursday by the state. What´s more, the sickening lack of compassion for this tragic woman, her traumatized baby and her grieving family in mainstream coverage of the shooting clearly illustrates everything that is wrong with modern mainstream journalism.

I doubt Miriam Carey´s grieving family will ever get the answers they deserve. Like Boston or Navy Yard, nobody seems willing to plug the gaping holes in this story and the whole truth may never be revealed. But for those of us outside the US, what happened in Washington on Thursday adds a whole new element to America´s ongoing gun debate: whether they take your weapons or not, who will protect the people from the trigger-happy cops, and who will tell the truth about it?

Sophie is an award-winning feature writer, investigative journalist, campaigner and author. She is a staff writer for True Activist on issues of peace, justice, society, environment and activism. You can find out more or contact her here.

Note: This article was amended on October 9 to correct a bad link and add a new link to an eyewitness testimony of the event.

151 Responses to Miriam Carey is dead, and you could be next. America, we worry about you

  1. I find it highly irresponsible and unprofessional to print such an article. We all know hindsight is 20/20 and thus, it is very easy to be a “Monday morning quarterback”. I seriously doubt you have been in a life or death situation. If you have been in one then you would not have written such an article. Furthermore, to say the woman was unarmed is incorrect. She was recklessly driving a vehicle with a gross weight of approximately 4500 lbs. That sounds like a dangerous weapon to me. Finally, mentally ill people are very unpredictable and they gave her the opportunity to stop. Finally, considering that the United States has seen terrorist attacks and mass shootings/ killings such as: Navy yard shooting, movie theater shooting (Aurora, Colorado), Fort Hood shooting, school shootings (VA Tech, Amish school in PA, etc) in recent years why risk letting innocent people die…

    • I´m sorry if the article offended you Andrew, but I have just been reading this and it sums up brilliantly what I mean when I say there are other ways of dealing with things rather than spraying bullets everywhere:

      http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/heroes_without_guns?utm_source=GGSC+Newsletter+-+October+2013&utm_campaign=GG+Newsletter+%232+-+Sept+2013+&utm_medium=email

    • Also…don´t you ever think that maybe America has so many gun tragedies because guns are so easy to come by? It´s kinda logical…we just don´t have this problem in Europe. You can´t create solutions with the original problem. I thought it was only the GOP who were prone to suggest that more guns will stop gun crime…..As for her car being a weapon and her mental illness, hmm well only if the media decide to put that spin on it. I´m not sure you read the whole article if that´s not clear.

    • Andrew, I have been in more life and death situations than you will ever see in movies, in my 4 tours to Afghanistan, and guess what? We faced much bigger threats than a single mother in an Infiniti, yet we didn’t always have to kill those threats. The police officers in question are either poorly trained, cowards, or flat out retards. Shooting out the tires, tasting, or simply physically restraining her were all options that were available to them. Killing should be the last option, not the first. I’ve killed many enemies in combat, but I did so when there was no other option. Police officers are servants of the public, not enforcers of martial law. What’s insane is that so many people are applauding them as heroes. Even if she is mentally disturbed, does that make her deserve to die? Didn’t so many Americans call for better help for the mentally ill after Sandy Hook?  That boy murdered children, yet Americans everywhere were proclaiming that it wasn’t his fault. He was I’ll. So how is this woman not deserving if the same sympathy?

    • Sophie and CB,

      I agree “there are other ways of dealing with things rather than spraying bullets”. Police are making every effort to come up with non-lethal/ less-lethal weapons. From the video, articles that I read, and pictures that I saw, I believe the cops gave her several chances to stop and thus by her own actions she is partially responsible. I did not see an opportunity for the police to tase her. I do agree they could have shot out the tires. I think it is too easy to solely blame them when they made a decision “in the heat of the moment”.

      Europe may not presently have a problem with guns; however, one example that comes to mind was the IRA militants with illegal guns. I do believe that it needs to be more difficult to purchase guns personally. I think it is more of a cultural issue than gun issue. I do believe people will think twice about killing/ robbing/ etc if they know they will run into a victim who is a gun owner.

      I understand that by the nature of your job you must act quickly to stay relevant, but I think sometimes one needs to wait till all the facts are considered.

      P.S. On a side note, as for the mentally ill issue, one of my close friends was bi-polar and suffered from Torrette’s Syndrome. So I am very familiar with the issue. Fortunately, he was not a gun owner. The gun laws are partially responsible for him not owning a gun. In his manic phases, I can only imagine what could have happened. I do not agree with the media’s views all the time. In fact, I watch BBC frequently just to get a different perspective. Something needs to be done to prevent senseless killings.

    • I don’t know enough about the case one way or the other to give an opinion, looks like most of the people here have that covered anyway and eventually you’re all probably going to have to agree to disagree, which as I see it is as much a part of the problem as anything. Too many opinions, not enough unity and consensus.

      Forgive my ignorance but to answer your question ‘why risk letting innocent people die?’, maybe I’ve seen too many courtroom dramas but I thought even in today’s world a suspect is ‘innocent until proven guilty’, which begs the question; ‘Can it be proven beyond reasonable doubt that Ms Carey committed a crime for which she deserved instant execution?’. My short answer would be ‘probably not’, but I wasn’t there. Still …

      You guys over in the States are extremely high strung. Fair enough, we get it. But I really hope all this mess gets sorted out really soon, because no matter where we are in the world, we are all in this together.

  2. As an aside, I am so tired of the, “They were mentally ill!” repetition in the media.

    http://depts.washington.edu/mhreport/facts_violence.php

    It’s doing nothing but adding to stereotypes, and it’s wrong.

  3. I would suggest to Ms. McAdam that in her home country of Britain if someone had hit a security barricade in front of 10 Downing street and then, when the police tried to stop her, had hit a police car, run over one policeman, and then made a straight shot driving towards Parliament she might have seen the same response from the British police as well.

    “Shot out her tires” is a common question asked by people who are not sufficiently knowledgeable to know (1) how difficult that really is and (2) it doesn’t stop someone from continuing to drive. Even watched all the Yuotube videos of people driving on flat tires or even the rims?

    She can comment on the professionalism of the Secret Service (not the police; there is quite a difference) but considering where she chose to try and crash a security barricade, run into police cars, hit a policeman, and then where she was driving towards, I suggest Ms. McAdams review her statements and revise them.

    • Is there video evidence of her running over a police officer? I would like to see it, I’m pretty sure that’s a lie made to cover the police’s butts.

  4. You’ve got to love the headline “UNARMED MOTHER SHOT DEAD BY CAPITOL,” as it summarizes the situation so well…. not unlike the unarmed (other than hoodie & skittles) teen being shot by an unofficial “watch” or “vigilante” type.

    The notion of “Innocent until Proven Guilty” has pretty much disappeared in the USA – just check the treatment of airline passenger today. (At airports, “Freedom of Speech” has also disappeared.)

    Does anyone think we’ll see ANY follow-up investigation to assess how different law enforcement elements might have cooperated and collaborated to avert this fiasco that led to this unnecessary killing?

    Will Steny Hoyer face any fall-out from initiating a standing ovation for the Capitol Hill police, who he applauded for working without pay (now, probably doubly reinstated).

    Media noted a barrage of up to 18 or 20 gunshots. The quick read was that the victim was the instigator. WHO were the individuals who shot her?? Will her family ever get this information. I hope they will get good advice on how to proceed.

    Let’s posit a theory: Young mother takes responsibility to move from projects in NYC; she advances academically; she had a child; she loses a job (probably any number of reasons could apply – possibly the new health care law??); she feels desperate to get some help for her child – possibly affordable health care which was just coming on the scene; she goes to Washington, DC to try to seek help; like anyone, she discovers the chaos of Wash, DC traffic; she pulls to an entryway near the White House (NOT at a close perimeter, rather by a very removed area by 15th Street; she tries to initiate an inquiry on healthcare law and secret service officers dismiss her with weaponry and intimidation; she feels overwhelmed by their demeanor and lack of negotiation skill; the secret service uniformed division are surrounding her and aggressively staring her down; her maternal instinct kicks in and she tries to flee as soon as possible; secret service pass this onto the FBI; due to totally inadequate communication skills, she is not contained; the law enforcement element gets their thrill of a chase in the making; ineptitude ensues as secret service-fbi-capitol hill police vie for prominence and power (keenly aware of the government shut-down and the sequester); meanwhile, unarmed mother is still just trying to get away; end product – TOTAL BLUNDERING and TOTAL DISREGARD FOR LIFE, in particular that of an African-American single mother.

    Will anyone African American woman in public life say that this mother might have resembled her in the past, as did the president about Treyyvon Martin?

    Will the federal government assess the degree to which law enforcement jeopardized public safety by NOT being able to put the supposed “threat” to bed before the chase along Pennsylvania Avenue and to the Capitol? .

    This story is NOT over. The “lessons learned” report MUST address the reality of our tragic situation. “Security” is not a meal ticket that would allow, or condone, collateral damage: the killing of an unarmed mother.

    coming soon…….. check your news and make your news!!!

Leave a Reply