Thursday's incident that officials said was not an accident, but apparently also not part of any larger or organized terrorist plot, sent shockwaves through the American capital coming as it did just two weeks after the Navy Yard shooting that claimed 12 lives.
The chase began around 2:15 p.m. when the woman rammed the outer gate at the White House with her Black Infiniti sedan and then sped down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol Hill, police said.
Dramatic video taken minutes later near the US Capitol showed the vehicle backing into a police vehicle before the chase resumed. Gunshots rang through the traffic circle. The motorist was shot by police just a few blocks away.
The woman identified as Miriam Carey, 34, a dental hygienist from Stamford, Connecticut, had a 1-year-old child inside and apparently was unarmed. But her car itself became a weapon, police said.
House and Senate sessions were immediately suspended, with legislators ordered to take cover and keep away from windows. Police also closed Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.
Security perimeters at the White House and Capitol worked, DC Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told reporters. "They did exactly what they were supposed to do," she said.
A Capitol Police officer whose vehicle crashed during the chase also was hurt, authorities said. The officer was released from a local hospital Thursday night. The Secret Service did not release information about its injured agent.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation, which occurred on the third day of a government shutdown due to a stalemate in Congress over government funding.
"The timing on this was really kind of scary," Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold told CNN. "Capitol Hill police are at a lower personnel level because of the shutdown."
Authorities lauded the action of police, some of whom aren't being paid because of the government shutdown and will receive their pay checks only after the government reopens.