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'Get on the ground!' Tourists recount witnessing DC chase

Oct. 4, 2013 at 8:19 AM ET

Video: Jennifer and Tim Arnold from Louisville, Ken., were vacationing with their two kids in Washington, D.C., during the fatal shooting and car chase Thursday. They tell TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie they all started running down the street and hid in bushes.

A vacation in the nation’s capital already gone awry from the government shutdown took a frightening turn for one Kentucky family who got stuck in the middle of a fatal car chase.

Jennifer and Tim Arnold and their two daughters had just gotten off a pedicab while visiting the Capitol on Thursday when they heard the chaos nearby of police officers trying to apprehend the driver of the vehicle.

“That’s when we saw the black car speeding down Pennsylvania Ave. and the chase," Jennifer Arnold recalled Friday on TODAY. "Shortly thereafter, we heard the gunfire and could smell the smoke from it.”

Her husband said he immediately told his two daughters, ages 13 and 8, to take cover.

People take cover as gun shots were being heard at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 3, 2013. The US Capitol was placed on security lockdow...
JEWEL SAMAD / AFP - Getty Images
Tim Arnold, on vacation from Louisville, Ky., with his family, tries to capture images from a fatal car chase between the driver and authorities.

“I said, ‘Get on the ground, get on the ground.’ And they jumped over a little barrier that was there and got in the bushes. I just got down on the stairs,” he said.

Related: Woman in DC chase may have thought Obama was stalking her, sources say

The family, on vacation from Louisville, Ky., were on the Capitol grounds when Connecticut dental hygienist Miriam Carey led authorities on a harrowing chase through the area. The chase ended after Carey was fatally shot by police.

The ordeal further shook a city already rattled by the recent Navy Yard shooting and a government shutdown that hobbled many of the city’s major tourist attractions.

The experience also shook the Arnolds, especially their two daughters. 

"They were crying and shaking,” Jennifer Arnold said, recalling how they initially didn't know whether the gunshots were coming from a crazed shooter or from police.

“We did get separated from the children for a while,” she said. “They were about two blocks ahead of us and I was calling my daughter on her cell phone to make sure she had her little sister, and we finally did get reunited.”

A photographer captured Tim Arnold while he was taking cover on the ground, holding a camera. Arnold told Guthrie he only "caught the aftermath" because he didn't have his camera out at the time.

"I put it away seconds before all this happened," he said.

The couple planned to head to New York Friday, for a more calming experience.