A chaotic scene unfolded near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday after police shot and killed an armed man in what authorities described as a routine rush hour traffic stop that turned deadly.
U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Schneider said the unidentified 35-year-old man sped away in a white car after being stopped a few blocks from the Capitol. The man drove the wrong way down a street and ultimately crashed into a police cruiser in a heavily guarded area about a block north of the Capitol grounds, striking two officers with his car along the way, she said.
Police then opened fire after seeing the man hold up his handgun and refusing to put it down, said Schneider, who described the melee as "very fast moving, very fluid."
"The officers felt they were being threatened — they were in fear for their lives," Schneider said.
She did not know if the man ever fired at police. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
|Police work the scene of a shooting near the U.S. Capitol in Washington|
The officers who were hit — one of whom was on a motorcycle — had minor injuries, Schneider said.
The late afternoon scare occurred as lawmakers were wrapping up a third day of hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Police briefly sealed off part of the Capitol as a precaution, but the buildings were reopened about a half-hour later. Authorities said the shooting was not related to the Capitol complex.
"We hear pop, pop, pop, like a gun," said Carol Lanigan, of Toledo, Ohio, describing how she saw a white car come flying down the street with two police cars chasing it.
She said she heard about four or five shots.
"There were so many gunshots being fired, my family got down," said Robert Drumm of Oklahoma, who was touring the nation's capital with his family.
Numerous emergency vehicles converged quickly on the area.
Lanigan's husband, Dale Lanigan, described a similar scene, saying that as the car sped past him "the driver had one hand on the wheel and it looked like he was reaching for something."
Lanigan said he then heard shots and police ordered him to get away.