A black woman whose sister was shot and killed by US Capitol police in Washington eight years ago has said the “restraint” shown by the same agency to Donald Trump’s insurrectionist mob, compared with actions in Black Lives Matter protests last summer, is “hurtful”.
Valarie Carey criticised officers for what she said was an inability to deal with black people, and said some police were either racist or dealing with “culture shock”.
“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, it’s hurtful,” Carey told CNN.
“They were treated with entitlement and it’s ridiculous. We all know had it been a black person or brown person that situation would have been different.”
Carey’s sister Miriam, 34, a dental hygienist from Connecticut, was killed in October 2013 after her car collided with a security barrier and struck an off-duty Secret Service officer at the White House.
She drove off, pursued by several marked police vehicles, and was shot when she attempted to drive away from officers who surrounded her car with guns drawn. Her 18-month-old daughter was found in the back seat, unharmed.
Valarie Carey said the police response to last week’s Capitol riot, in which five people died including an officer, reflected a systemic issue about race in law enforcement.
Washington police arrested 80 people around the Capitol riot, the majority for curfew violations. Video imagery of police assisting members of the mob down steps, opening gates to allow access to the Capitol or taking selfies have caused outrage. Forces around the US have said they are investigating whether off-duty members participated in the riot.
Additionally, NBC reported on Sunday that the FBI and New York police department had both alerted Capitol police to the likelihood of violence on 6 January, and that the federal agency had visited known agitators ahead of the riot.
On Friday, the FBI had said there was no indication of an intelligence failure. But questions remain over what knowledge Capitol police possessed and how it played into the department’s lacklustre response.
By contrast, some of the most powerful images of summer 2020 were shot in Washington during protests following the death of George Floyd, as officers deployed rubber bullets and teargas against peaceful protesters and violently removed them from Lafayette Park near the White House, so Trump could stage a photo opportunity.
The disparity in actions, Carey says, raises questions about institutionalized racism.
The retired New York police department sergeant said she had never accepted officers were justified in killing her sister, who she insisted made an innocent mistake.
“My sister didn’t breach security,” she said, “she made a U-turn and she was ultimately gunned down. There shouldn’t have been a chase to begin with.”
The officers from the Capitol police and Secret Service who shot her five times faced no action. The then chief of Washington Metropolitan police, Cathy Lanier, said their actions were reasonable in response to “violent acts”.
Carey said she wanted the Capitol riots to bring renewed focus to police violence against black people, and called for the investigation into her sister’s death to be reopened.
“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.