Watching rioters storm the U.S. Capitol reopened old wounds for Valarie Carey.
Carey’s younger sister, Miriam Carey, was fatally shot by Capitol police and U.S. Secret Service officers more than seven years ago after leading officers on a high-speed chase near the White House.
Carey said the restraint shown by Capitol police on Wednesday was a stark contrast to how the same police agency treated her sister, a 34-year-old dental hygienist.
“To see the disparity in the treatment of individuals ... who have no respect for our nation’s Capitol, vandalizing and actually committing assaults and they get to walk away unharmed and not even arrested,” Carey said. “It’s hurtful.”
Carey’s frustrations are being echoed across the country by Black Americans fed up with the double standard that allowed white rioters to leave the Capitol largely unscathed. The response has been compared to the force police used on Black people, such as Miriam Carey, that often ends in death, serious injury or arrests.
Notably, during Black Lives Matter protests last summer police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators calling for racial justice and made thousands of arrests. Washington police said they made 80 arrests related to Capitol riots and the majority were for violating the mayor’s 6 p.m. curfew. Images of police letting rioters through the Capitol gates, escorting them down the Capitol building steps and taking selfies with them have sparked outrage among Black people.
Carey, a retired New York City police sergeant, said the Capitol riots demonstrate that many white people don’t live with the same fear of police violence as Black people.
“They were treated with entitlement and it’s ridiculous,” Carey said. “We all know had it been a Black person or brown person that situation would have been different.”
Carey said the police response reflects a systemic issue with law enforcement. Some police are either racist or dealing with “culture shock” and don’t know how to interact with Black people, she said.
In Miriam’s case, Valarie Carey said she does not believe police were justified in shooting her sister, whose 1-year-old daughter was in the back seat. The child was unharmed.
The Oct. 3, 2013, incident began when Miriam Carey drove up to a White House checkpoint and was approached by Secret Service officers. She made a three-point turn, striking an officer who was trying to move a barricade into her path and then drove away. Police said the car sped down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol, where security vehicles stopped it at Garfield Circle.
Carey put the car in reverse, hit a police car and drove away as officers fired at her. The chase ended when Carey crashed into a security barrier a few blocks away. She died after being shot five times by police. There were no criminal charges filed against the officers involved.
Carey said the destruction rioters caused at the Capitol last week was far worse than Miriam Carey fleeing police. Valarie Carey said Miriam may have panicked when she encountered police, but she was unarmed and did not pose a threat. At best, Valarie Carey said Miriam may have committed a traffic infraction.
“My sister didn’t breach security, she made a U-turn and she was ultimately gunned down,” Carey said. “There shouldn’t have been a chase to begin with.”
Carey said Miriam Carey suffered postpartum depression after having her baby in 2012, but she said her sister was mentally stable at the time of her death.
Independent law enforcement and criminal law analysts have told CNN that under the fast-moving circumstances in a high-security zone, the officers were right to fire shots since they did not know if the driver was violent or a potential terrorist.
At the time of the shooting, then-Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said that officers of the Capitol police and Secret Service acted within commonly accepted use-of-force policies and practices in reaction to an intentional series of violent acts.
Valarie Carey said she hopes the Capitol riots bring a renewed focus on the unjust treatment of Black people by police. This year, Carey said she will be fighting for the investigation into Miriam Carey’s death to be reopened. She wants the police who killed her to be held accountable.
“I am praying that 2021 is the year we get some sort of resolution and get justice for my sister who is no longer here,” she said.