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Police kill woman in Washington, forcing US Capitol into lockdown

Washington: A woman driving a black car with a young child inside has tried to ram through a White House barricade before leading police on a chase towards the Capitol, where police shot and killed her, witnesses and officials say.

Tourists watched the shooting unfold outside the Capitol as lawmakers inside debated how to end a government shutdown.

Police quickly locked down the entire complex temporarily. Both houses of Congress went into recess and Capitol police told staffers to ‘‘shelter in place’’.

Republican Michael McCaul, a Republican who said he was briefed by the Homeland Security Department, said the woman was killed. Asked if she was armed, he replied: ‘‘I don’t think she was. There was no return fire.’’

Police described it as an isolated event and saw no indications of terrorism.

The pursuit began when a car with Connecticut plates sped onto the driveway leading to the White House, over a set of lowered barricades.

When the woman couldn’t get through a second barrier, she spun the car in the opposite direction, flipping a Secret Service officer over the hood of the car as she sped away, said B.J. Campbell, a visiting tourist.

A fleet of police and Secret Service cars chased the Infiniti toward Capitol Hill.

‘‘The car was trying to get away. But it was going over the median (strip) and over the curb,’’ said Matthew Coursen, who was on his way to a legislative office building when the Infiniti sped by him.

‘‘The car got boxed in and that’s when I saw an officer of some kind draw his weapon and fire shots into the car.’’

The Senate’s top security officer Terrance Gainer said a child was taken from the car to a hospital but said he knew of no harm to the youngster. Tourist Edmund Ofori-Attah said the child appeared to be about two or three years old.

A police officer was injured in the accident but Mr Gainer said the injuries were not life threatening.

Police ordered nearby tourists to crouch behind a car for protection, then hustled everyone into the Capitol.

‘‘We were walking up to the Capitol,’’ said one tourist, Andrew Larison, 53, of Van Etten, New York, who was visiting with his wife, daughter and grandchildren. ‘‘I heard three shots … at least three. Then we saw a black car and several police chasing the black car.’’

Mr Larison said police ‘‘told us to get out of the way, get off the street’’.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said he was on the Senate floor when he heard reports of gunfire. He said he was ‘‘shaken’’ by the news and immediately called his wife.

‘‘Hopefully, it was an isolated incident,’’ said Senator Blumenthal, a leading voice on gun control who represents Newtown, the site of the mass shootings of 20 children and six adults at a primary school in December.

Democratic Representative Juan Vargas of California was walking to the Capitol when he heard the sound of pops. A Capitol Police officer rushed at him, telling him to take off his pin identifying him as a congressman because he might be a target.

Senator Jeff Flake said he was going to walk out of the Capitol to his office across the street.

‘‘I got to the door and they wouldn’t let me out of the door,’’ Senator Flake, an Arizona Republican, said.

The shooting comes two weeks after a mentally disturbed employee terrorised the Navy Yard with a shotgun, leaving 13 people dead including the gunman.

Before the disruption, lawmakers had been trying to find common ground to end a government shutdown. The House had just finished approving legislation aimed at partly lifting the government shutdown by paying National Guard and Reserve members.

US Capitol Police on the plaza around the Capitol said they were working without pay as the result of the shutdown.

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