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If the mentally ill don’t receive adequate care, tragedies like Miriam Carey’s death will continue: Mitchell

This 2011 phoprovided by Dr. Barry Weiss from website Advanced Periodontics Hamden Conn. shows former employee Miriam Carey. The 34-year-old

This 2011 photo provided by Dr. Barry Weiss, from the website of Advanced Periodontics in Hamden, Conn., shows former employee Miriam Carey. The 34-year-old Carey was shot to death by police after a car chase that began when she tried to breach a barrier at the White House. (AP Photo/Advanced Periodontics)

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Updated: November 9, 2013 6:25AM



How could an unarmed 34-year-old mother die at hands of trained police officers in our nation’s capitol with her baby girl in the backseat?

Like many of you, I watched the black Infiniti speed through traffic as if being chased by monsters. When a half-dozen officers surrounded Miriam Carey’s car with their guns drawn, I thought, this is it: OMG! They are going to blow out the tires.

I was stunned when the Infiniti took off and even more shocked to learn later that the driver was a woman, the mother of an 18-month-old baby girl.

The mother was fatally wounded. One of the officers was shown carrying a toddler with a head full of barrettes to a waiting squad car.

It would be hours before police would release Carey’s name or disclose that she was a resident in the Stamford, Conn. area.

Now, Carey’s family is looking for answers for what they are calling an “unjustified” shooting, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.

Valarie Carey, a former New York City police officer, said the family will “conduct their own investigation” into the incident.

“My sister just totally didn’t deserve this,” she said.

Coming so close on the heels of Aaron Alexis’ gun rampage at the Washington Navy Yard that left 12 people and the shooter dead, it is easy to understand why police officers moved so forcibly against Carey.

Authorities claim Carey rammed a metal barricade at an entrance to the White House, then sped away striking a uniformed Secret Service officer.

The first thought that would go through anyone’s mind is that the person behind the wheel is either a terrorist or a criminal.

But in this instance, the person was mentally ill.

Carey’s family will only admit that she suffered from postpartum depression with psychosis.

But there is the possibility the dead woman’s family hasn’t come to grips with the extent of Carey’s mental illness.

For instance, one sister, Amy Carey-Jones, told CNN, “There wasn’t a pattern [of mental instability]. “But in the next breath, she acknowledges that Miriam Carey had “once suffered a momentary breakdown” that needed emergency care.

ABC News reported that in 2012, Carey’s boyfriend, the father of her daughter, had reported to police that Carey was “delusional, acting irrationally and putting her infant daughter in danger.”

Investigators also learned that Carey believed President Barack Obama was “electronically monitoring her” and that Stamford was on “lockdown.”

Unfortunately, we’ll never know what was going on inside of Miriam Carey’s head when she sped down Pennsylvania Avenue with her baby in tow and cops in pursuit.

What we do know is Carey was unarmed.

There should have been a way to end this confrontation without killing Carey and subjecting her child to this trauma.

But mental illness is an area where the disease is treated as if it is the sick person’s fault.

When mental illness does make it into the national conversation, it is usually because a mentally ill person, such as Alexis, is able to get his hands on a gun and commit mass murder.

Then our focus is limited to trying to strengthen laws that would keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Because so many lives were lost in the senseless shooting, the fact that Alexis was delusional and hearing voices was ignored in most discussions.

We are compassionate when it comes to cancer patients, but untreated mentally ill patients are handled the same as criminals: They are either jailed or killed.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart recently told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that Cook County jail has housed at least “2,500 inmates with mental illnesses.”

“This is a population that people don’t care about and so as a result of that, there are not the resources out there to care for them,” Dart said. “People are falling through the cracks all the time. To think that won’t then boil up at some point and end up in tragedy, that’s just naive.”

What happened to Carey should be an anomaly.

But if we continue to allow the mentally ill to be treated like criminals, tragedies like this one will become common.

Email: marym@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST



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