(Adds comments from sisters of woman)
By Richard Weizel and Mark Hosenball
STAMFORD, Conn./WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - The woman who engaged police in a dramatic car chase through the streets of Washington, prompting a lockdown of the U.S. Capitol before officers shot her dead, suffered from post-partum depression, her sisters told CNN on Friday, while questioning why she had to die.
Miriam Carey, 34, had her one-year-old baby in the car with her on Thursday when she tried to drive her black Infiniti coupe through a barrier near the White House, then sped away toward Capitol Hill, leading police on a high-speed chase that ended when her car got stuck on a median and police shot her.
The incident came at a time of high political tension in the U.S. capital, with Congress debating how to resolve the shutdown of the federal government when shots rang out.
Investigators probing the incident are focusing on whether Carey had mental problems that triggered her actions, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Carey was diagnosed with post-partum depression a few months after the birth of her baby, her sister, Amy Carey-Jones, told CNN host Anderson Cooper on Friday evening.
"My sister did experience post-partum depression, with psychosis, they labeled it," Carey-Jones said, echoing comments reported earlier by ABC News which quoted Carey's mother as saying her daughter had post-partum depression and had been hospitalized as a result.
Carey-Jones, who said she spoke often to her sister, disputed reports suggesting that her sister might have suffered from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Carey took medication, which she was tapering off, and participated in counseling and "had her challenges" with the illness, Carey-Jones said. "There was not moments of her walking around with delusions, that's not what was going on," she said.
Carey-Jones, who was sitting with her sister Valarie Carey, said her family had "a lot of questions" about her sister's death and why police opened fire.
Valarie Carey told CNN, "My sister was a loving mother, she was a law abiding citizen, she had no political agenda and she did not deserve to have her life cut down at the age of 34."
Carey had had no previous run-ins with the U.S. Secret Service, which is responsible for White House security, a law enforcement official said.
Carey's daughter was unharmed when taken in by the District of Columbia Child and Family Services on Friday, said Mindy Good, a spokeswoman for the agency.
"She's fine," Good said of the child, who she declined to name. "Safe and fine, so far."
Outside a Stamford, Connecticut, building where Carey had lived, most neighbors said they knew little about the woman. But one man, a 59-year-old resident of the building who would only identify himself as "O.V.," said she had been behaving unusually recently.
"She seemed nice, but was very erratic lately, was acting very strange," he said. "She seemed like she was OK one minute, and then wasn't making any sense the next.
"She would often speed her car in and out of the parking lot here, and that was something that really concerned me," he said.
Carey was a licensed dental hygienist, according to records kept online by the state of Connecticut.
The incident was initially reported as a shooting. But law enforcement sources said the woman did not shoot a gun and there was no indication she had one.
Law enforcement investigators had largely completed their search of Carey's Stamford apartment on Friday and reopened the building, which had been evacuated a day earlier, to residents.
Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia said the investigation had been handed over to the FBI.
Two officers were hurt in Thursday's incident. One was a Secret Service officer who was struck by the suspect's car outside the White House, Donovan said.
The other was a Capitol Police officer whose car struck a barricade during the mid-afternoon chase, which ranged over about a mile and a half (2.4 km) and lasted just a few minutes, officials said.
Security was tight near the Capitol after Thursday's incident, just three weeks after a government contractor opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the Capitol, killing 12 people and wounding three others before he was shot dead by police.
In 1998, a gunman burst through a security checkpoint at the Capitol and killed two Capitol Police officers in an exchange of fire that sent tourists and other bystanders diving for cover. The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston Jr., was not charged with a crime because of apparent mental instability. (Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Ian Simpson in Washington, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Edward Upright in New York; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Vicki Allen and David Brunnstrom)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.