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Sheriff: 11-year JSO veteran injured, bank robbery suspect killed in shootout

JSO: K-9 officer 'stable,' detective unhurt after high-speed chase, shooting

JSO photo of K-9 Officer Jeremy Mason (left) and previous booking photo of Michael Harris (right)
JSO photo of K-9 Officer Jeremy Mason (left) and previous booking photo of Michael Harris (right)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A K-9 officer was injured and a bank robbery suspect was killed in a shootout Tuesday afternoon during a high-speed chase on the city's Westside, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

During a late Tuesday evening news briefing, Sheriff Mike Williams identified the K-9 officer who was shot as Jeremy Mason, an 11-year veteran of JSO. He was in stable condition at last check. 

Williams also released the name of the suspect, 28-year-old Michael Joseph Harris, who was fatally shot by two officers -- Mason and Detective Brad Hurst, who's a 10-year veteran on the force.

The sheriff said tips from the public led officers to the area of 103rd Street and Old Middleburg Road to look for a man, later identified as Harris, who robbed an Atlantic Federal Bank on Tuesday morning and a Wells Fargo bank on Monday.

RELATED: Police: Man with gun robs busy Wells Fargo bankPolice investigate 2nd Westside bank robbery in 2 days

About 4:30 p.m., Williams said, patrol officers and the K-9 officer in the area spotted Harris getting out of the vehicle that had been used in the robberies and into a silver car being driven by a woman. 

Williams said a 2-mile high-speed chase then ensued, during which Harris began firing shots out both of the car's back windows. 

Mason, the K-9 officer who was leading the pursuit, was shot once in the chin and his patrol car was hit multiple times, yet he kept following the silver car and radioed for help, Williams said. 

Hurst, who was in the area on an unrelated case, heard the call over the scanner and responded.

Shortly after, the pursuit came to an end at the intersection of Buttercup Street and Old Middleburg Road, where the silver car ran a stop sign and was struck by another passenger vehicle.

Williams said that's when Harris got out of the passenger side of the car, still shooting, and Mason and Hurst fired back -- shooting and killing him. Harris, a three-time convicted felon, died at the scene.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, who served more than 20 years with JSO, said the manner in which the K-9 officer responded is notable.

"To me, that is very courageous to stay on the pursuit and be able to call in and tell dispatch what's going on," Smith said. "I mean, this is one of the most dangerous situations a police officer can be in, when someone is actually taking shots at them."

The wounded K-9 officer was taken to UF Health hospital, where he was in "great spirits," JSO Director Mike Bruno said in a media briefing earlier in the evening. 

"He's blessed to have sustained that kind of injury and be able to talk, and to sit up, to talk," Bruno said.

As of 11 p.m., Williams said, Mason was in stable condition, but still has a long road back.

"He's got a great support system in place," Williams said. "He puts himself between the suspect -- who's an incredibly violent felon -- and the community, and ultimately winds up taking that suspect down, stopping him from, again, endangering the entire community out there on the Westside. My hat's off to both of these officers involved."

A massive portion of the Westside neighborhood was shut down after the shootout. One man, who lives nearby, said he heard around five gunshots and saw cars speeding through the area.

"I was inside watching TV and, you know, I heard the shots," he said. "I came out, and all the commotion right here is what we got."

The sheriff said this was the first officer-involved shooting for both Mason and Hurst, who was unhurt in the incident.

"I can't say enough about the response of the officers and the way they handled the situation," Williams said. 

According to JSO, the woman driving the silver car was the suspect's girlfriend, and she was taken into custody. It's uncertain what her involvement was, or what charges she might face.

There was one other person hurt in the crash that ended the pursuit, investigators said.

Police report reveals new details in Tuesday's bank robbery

Just minutes before Williams' news briefing, News4Jax obtained the police report on the bank robbery Tuesday morning at the Atlantic Coast Bank on Normandy Boulevard. 

Police said the man involved in the bank robbery was shot and killed during a chase about six hours later. 

According to the JSO report, he told the teller, "I'm sorry. I'm doing this for my family," and "Give me the money."

The sheriff responded to the report during his briefing, saying, "There is no level of desperation that justifies you attacking a police officer. ... All he had to do was give up. All he had to do was surrender, he chose not to do that. He chose to fight with officers. He chose to try to take an officer's life. I have no sympathy for any level of desperation he had."

Local law enforcement agencies express support

After the shooting of the officer, several law enforcement agencies across Northeast Florida took to social media to offer their support.

The Florida Highway Patrol's Jacksonville troop said in a tweet, "Our thoughts to the @JSOPIO Officer shot today protecting our streets. Wishing a quick and full recovery."

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters also took to Twitter, saying, "The @jaff122 send our thoughts and prayers to the injured JSO off. We know we have some of the best officers in the world. #gotourbacks."

Minutes later, the account tweeted, "The @jaff122 are thinking about our brother in blue. Prayers to him and his family. We are unified and we got your back. #danger."

Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona said the outpouring of support from the law enforcement community is critical. 

"It's his entire blue family. Everybody really rallies around him. Everybody rallies around his family and takes care of him from this point forward," Zona said.

Previous 3 JSO officers shot

Tuesday's incident was the fifth police shooting by JSO this year. Four of the suspects were killed.

The last time a JSO officer was shot was in March 2016, when an off-duty narcotics detective was wounded by Kevin Rojas while taking his son to school, according to investigators. Rojas is awaiting trial, and the detective, whose name was never released because of his undercover work, is back on duty.

The last shooting of an officer prior to that was in April 2014, when Officer Andrew Benson was shot and wounded by Donald Goins, who’s now serving a life sentence.

In January 2008, Officer Jared Reston was shot in the jaw by shoplifting suspect Joel Abner. Reston was also hit several times in the chest, but his bulletproof vest saved his life. Reston shot and killed Abner. 

About the Authors:

16-year veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.