JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After relaying her “terrifying” experience to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, investigators confirm Tara Carter was a victim in Tuesday’s car chase and not an accomplice.
Carter said she was frustrated that it took JSO 24 hours to acknowledge that she was a victim in the incident after being taken in for questioning Tuesday night, but a law enforcement source tells First Coast News JSO had to vet her statements and make sure she hadn’t crossed paths with the suspect in the past.
Police kept her cell phone as evidence as they continue to investigate. Her car was totaled following a crash with a civilian driver near Old Middleburg Road on the Westside.
Carter said she was sitting on the front porch Tuesday afternoon with a friend when Michael Harris, the suspect killed in Tuesday’s car chase, drove up and approached them. She said he first asked for a cigarette and then told her to get in her car and drive, flashing his gun in her direction.
“Oh man, that’s all I kept screaming was ‘I’m dead, I’m dead!’ as bullets are flying out, bullets are flying in,” Carter said.
She said she is still scared from the entire ordeal.
She said she did not know Harris, but knew she had to drive him around if she wanted to stay alive. She said he sat next to her in her car, but pointed his gun through her back passenger windows firing shots at the officers following them.
“All you can think about is survival and what’s next,” Carter said. “He was screaming at me when to turn and when I didn’t turn when he wanted me to he grabbed the wheel, I didn’t have a choice and all I could think was how do I stay alive? How do I not hit somebody? Why have they not blown out my tires?”
Carter said Harris “didn’t seem right” in the car. JSO says toxicology reports are still pending.
“If it happens to you, remember survival is where it’s at," she said. "Sometimes you’ve got to do things you wouldn’t do, but as long as you’re alive in the end that’s all that counts, right? I’m still here for my family.”
JSO said he was the one who fatally shot the suspect in the exchange of gunfire, but they are still looking into the details because, as protocol, they wait 72 hours before collecting statements from the officers involved because it’s a “traumatic” experience. JSO said Mason is “blessed” to be alive.
JSO said the gun used by Harris was stolen out of Taylor County in 2012.