WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A dramatic car chase through the streets of Washington from near the White House to the United States (US) Capitol ended in gunfire on Thursday when the driver was shot as lawmakers and aides huddled in a lockdown.
The identity and condition of the driver - a woman - was not released. One US official said she had been killed, but later a police official said he did not know her condition.
Driving a black sedan, the suspect rammed security barricades near the White House. Then the car, apparently carrying a child, raced up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol where Congress was in session.
Police gave chase and fired at the car. It finally came to a halt at 2nd Street and Constitution Avenue.
The incident rattled Washington just three weeks after a government contractor opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, about 2.4km from the Capitol, killing 12 people and wounding three others before he was shot to death by police.
A police officer was also hurt in a car crash during Thursday's chase that ranged over about 2.4km and lasted just a few minutes, officials said.
When Thursday's shooting erupted, lawmakers in Congress were trying to find a solution to a budget impasse that partially shut down the US government this week. The Capitol was briefly locked down during the incident.
The House of Representatives was in session, and Representative Grace Meng said lawmakers were told to shelter in place on the floor of the chamber. Outside, some tourists were frightened.
"I was just eating a hotdog over here and I heard about four or five gunshots, and then a swarm of police cars came in wailing their sirens," said Whit Dabney, 13, who was visiting Washington from Louisville, Kentucky, and heard the shots a couple of blocks away.
Witness Travis Gilbert said several police cars chased the black sedan at high speed toward the Capitol.
"They ran all the red lights. It was a very dangerous situation," Mr Gilbert said.
All the shooting appears to have been done by police; law enforcement sources said the suspect did not shoot a gun and there is no indication that she had one.
A US official said there was no apparent connection to terrorism.
The injured policeman was taken from the shooting scene in a Medevac helicopter, police said.
"He appears to be conscious and breathing but we're following up," Capitol Police chief Kim Dine said. "As far as we know, no officer has been shot."
CHILD IN CAR
Mr Dine also said he believed there was a child in the car with the suspect.
Just before the Capitol lockdown, Senator John McCain of Arizona was on the Senate floor urging that President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators launch negotiations to break the deadlock over government funding and a debt limit increase.
The House had just passed a bill to fund the National Guard and reservists who are not on active duty during the shutdown.
The Capitol police, who were deemed "essential" staff, were at work despite the government shutdown, but they are not being paid.
"What really comes home to me is that these are all people who are working without pay right now," Representative Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said on CNN. He was outside on a Capitol balcony when he said he heard seven or eight shots "all in less than a second".
Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi told MSNBC he heard sirens and saw police motorcycles go by and then heard four to six shots fired.
"I was walking in the direction of the gunshots, so I stopped and I noticed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was headed my way. We both took cover behind an SUV," Mr Wicker said."And then police officers came and told us to get down."
The lockdown order at the Capitol was called off after about an hour.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident, a White House official said, providing no further details.
Security is tight near the Capitol, but there have been previous shootings in the area. 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.