Mike Smith of Durham said he was walking on a side street near the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Thursday when he saw police open fire on a car that had just led authorities on a chase near the White House.
"I was walking away from the Capitol by the Supreme Court," Smith told WNCN by phone. He said he heard sirens but did not think much of them since sirens are a common sound in the area.
Smith said he noticed the sirens getting louder when he saw the intersection ahead of him was blocked off by law enforcement.
"At that time, I saw about four policemen come around the building I was beside," Smith said. "Their guns drawn and saw one of the policemen shoot the car, six, seven times."
Inside the car was 34-year-old Miriam Carey and a year-old child. Carey had led Secret Service and police on chase from the White House past the Capitol, attempting to penetrate the security barriers at both national landmarks, police said.
Smith said he quickly took shelter in a nearby doorway and got down.
"I was at an angle where if there was going to be a gun fight, I would be in the return fire," he said.
Smith said he stayed in the doorway two or three minutes after the shooting stopped.
"I was just trying to make sure I was OK."
Smith said he never thought what he was witnessing was terrorism.
"It looked like a little black sports car," he said. "I was a block behind the Capitol so I thought it was just a car chase."
He said he felt fine just a few short hours after the incident but at the time it was "nerve wracking."
Carey was killed during the incident. The child in the car was unharmed, police said.