Passenger shot driver, deputies say

Detectives find him at a friend's house and arrest him hours later.

By JACOB H. FRIES, Times Staff Writer
Published September 30, 2007

SAFETY HARBOR - As the Jeep slowed for a turn Friday afternoon, back-seat passenger Alexander Page pulled a gun, put it to the head of the 17-year-old girl driving and fired one shot, authorities said.

Page, 16, then jumped from the vehicle as another passenger grabbed the wheel and brought it to a stop, they said.

Hours later, with Deaonna Tarver clinging to life, deputies found Page and took him into custody.

But the central question - why? - continued to elude detectives, as well as Tarver's family.

"I just don't understand the pattern that these kids are following now," said her father, Michael Tarver. "Apparently this young person, for whatever reason, lost his mind and decided to throw his life away."

Authorities say that on Friday afternoon, four teenagers piled into a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Tarver, who lives in Clearwater. Page was in the back seat and, as far as deputies know, only an acquaintance of Tarver's.

At about 5:30 p.m., as Tarver was headed to a teen's home in Oldsmar, she and Page began arguing.

When she turned east onto State Road 580 from North Bay Hills Boulevard, Page drew a .22-caliber handgun and shot her at point-blank range, sheriff's officials say.

As Page fled, the front-seat passenger took control of the Jeep and drove Tarver to Mease Countryside Hospital, deputies said. Tarver, who attends Bayside High School, was transferred to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg with a life-threatening injury.

"We think she's making progress, but she's not out of the woods yet," her father said on Saturday. "It will probably be a few days before we can take that first deep breath."

Sheriff's detectives tracked Page to a friend's house in Pinellas Park and arrested him about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. They also found the gun used in the attack, which had been hidden in a backyard shed at a residence in Safety Harbor.

Investigators say Page acknowledged firing the gun inside the Jeep, but offered varying accounts of how the shooting took place. Page, who lives at 1612 Country Lane West in Clearwater, was taken to the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center and faces one count of attempted murder.

Page's criminal history was not known on Saturday, nor was it clear how he got the gun, authorities said. Efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful.

Tarver's father, meanwhile, was left with many questions as his daughter lay in a hospital bed, fighting for her life.

"This is not one of our better days, but we'll get through it," said Tarver, 47. "We will continue to persevere. We're a strong lot and we're not going to let anything take us down."

Jacob H. Fries can be reached at jfries@sptimes.com or 727 893-8872.