Witness in McIver shooting speaks for first time

A Timeline of Events:

February 27, 1990: Three teenagers accuse Claud “Tex” McIver of firing shots into the air and then into their Ford Mustang outside his DeKalb County home.

May 1990: Tex McIver is indicted in DeKalb County on three counts of aggravated assault as well as other lesser charges in the shooting incident. Prosecutors would go on to drop the case after the parties decided to settle privately.

July 31, 2000: Tex McIver and his first wife are divorced.

November 2005: Tex McIver and Diane Smith are married.

Sept. 25, 2016: Tex McIver shoots Diane in their SUV near Piedmont Park. She dies early the next morning at Emory University Hospital on Clifton Road.

Sept. 26, 2016: An autopsy performed on Diane McIver determines she died of a gunshot wound to the back. The medical examiner declares the incident a homicide.

Sept. 30. 2016: Bill Crane, a spokesman for Tex McIver, says the lawyer shot his wife accidentally after the Ford Expedition they were riding in hit a bump. Crane told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the McIvers became alarmed and took their .38-caliber revolver from the console after individuals approached the vehicle. Crane said the McIvers were also worried about unrest surrounding recent Black Lives Matter protests in the area.

Oct. 6, 2016: In his first public comments on the case, Tex McIver tells The AJC that the shooting was an accident. McIver’s lawyer, Stephen Maples, also says some details provided by Crane about the night of the shooting were wrong. Maples said there was never a concern about Black Lives Matter. And he disputes that the gun went off after the SUV struck a bump. Instead, Maples says, Tex McIver was startled awake and the gun, which was in his lap, went off.

Oct. 24, 2016: State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, issues a letter to Senate leaders calling for the removal of Tex McIver as vice chairman of the state Board of Elections.

Nov. 1-2, 2016: Dani Jo Carter, a friend of Diane McIver who was driving the couple the night of the shooting, speaks for the first time. Carter’s attorney says the SUV was stopped when the gun went off.

The driver of the SUV in which a prominent Atlanta attorney shot and killed his wife said the vehicle was at a standstill at a stoplight when she heard the gunshot, according to the woman’s attorney.

The account by Dani Jo Carter, her first public comments on the shooting, directly contradicts a key element in the version told by Claud “Tex” McIver and his camp.

Tex McIver has said the Sept. 25 shooting, which killed his wife Diane, was a terrible accident. But his version of precisely how the gun went off has shifted over time. First, a family spokesman blamed a bump in the road. Then, Tex McIver’s attorney said he was jolted awake and the gun went off while in his lap. Carter, a longtime friend of Diane McIver, was the only other person in the 2013 Ford Expedition. And her version provides yet another picture of what transpired that Sunday night as they returned from a weekend at the couple’s Putnam County horse ranch to their Buckhead residence.

“There wasn’t any bump because they were sitting still,” according to Lee Davis, Carter’s attorney, who recounted her story.

At first, Carter had no idea the noise was a gunshot.

“Her initial reaction was she thought something had hit the car,” according to Davis. “She didn’t know what had happened until Diane said ‘I think you shot me,’ or something along those lines.”

Carter spoke to WSB-TV this week. But she deferred questions about the shooting to her attorney, who spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the TV station. Carter has been something of a mystery since the shooting. At first, police would not disclose her identity or say who else was in the vehicle, helping to fuel speculation and the public’s questions about the incident, which is still being investigated by Atlanta police. No charges have been filed in the case.

Carter does not believe Tex McIver shot his wife intentionally, but she said she does not know what happened in the back seat, Davis said.

“Tex was one of her friends too,” Davis said. “I think it would be very hard for her to think that it was anything other than an accident.”

Tex McIver, a politically connected corporate attorney in Atlanta for decades, was in the backseat holding a .38 caliber handgun and his wife, president of Corey Airport Services, was in the front passenger seat.

According to the initial story related by a family spokesman on Sept. 30, the McIver’s SUV hit a bump near Piedmont Park and the gun accidentally went off. McIver himself repeated that version of events in a pre-interview with a polygraph expert on Oct. 5, according to the report from that session.

But Carter told the AJC and WSB-TV through her lawyer that they were at a stoplight near the park when McIver’s gun went off and a bullet struck his wife in the back through the front passenger seat.

He said Carter could not say exactly how the gun went off.

“She was looking out the front window and doesn’t really know what happened in the back seat,” Davis said.

McIver’s attorney, Stephen Maples, downplayed any importance in these differing accounts.

He said his client was asleep and does not know whether the car was stopped or not when the gun went off.

“I think you’re trying to pick nits,” Maples said when asked about it by reporters Thursday. “You’re looking for every inconsistency. You’re trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.”

Maples said that such distinctions are not material to the larger question of whether the incident was intentional or an accident. McIver passed the Oct. 5 polygraph - arranged by his lawyer — in which he said he did not intentionally shoot his wife. The comments about the bump were made in a pre-interview before he was hooked up to the test machine.

“In my conversations with Tex, he was asleep and he doesn’t know” what caused him to awake, Maples said. He was holding the handgun in a plastic grocery bag when it went off accidentally, Maples said.

The day after Tex McIver told the polygraph examiner about the vehicle hitting a bump and the gun unexpectedly going off, Maples himself contradicted his client’s statement when he told the AJC that there was no bump. He said it was unclear what happened to jar McIver awake.

Questions about what happened when the gun fired are among several that surround Diane McIver’s death. Family spokesman Bill Crane initially said that the couple pulled the gun from the vehicle’s center console when they thought they had happened upon a Black Lives Matter rally. Maples later said that wasn’t the case.

Carter gave a four-hour interview with police after the incident, but hasn’t spoken to them since, according to her attorney.

She has struggled with the pain of losing her best friend, who she met four decades ago when they were both in their early 20s.

Carter, who owns a hair salon, became friends with Diane McIver because Carter would stay late to cut her hair every Thursday night. They would go out to dinner afterwards. Carter became friends with Tex through Diane, and it was not unusual for her to visit the ranch, where she kept a horse.

On the weekend of the shooting, Carter said the three had a wonderful time at the McIver’s ranch in Putnam County. Carter, who doesn’t drink, was driving the McIvers’ Expedition because the couple had shared a bottle of wine at a LongHorn Steakhouse on the way home. (Carter’s husband did not join them because he was out of town at a University of Georgia football game.)

Carter said they ran into heavy traffic on the Downtown Connector, and Diane McIver suggested they exit the highway. Tex McIver, who had been sleeping, woke up and was concerned with the neighborhood near Edgewood Ave., Carter said.

“Tex was uncomfortable with the area we were in,” she said. “He said he wished we hadn’t gotten off 85 and that it was a bad area and a bad idea.”

That’s when he asked Diane McIver to retrieve the .38 revolver that was in a plastic grocery bag in the center console, Carter said.

The three made their way up Piedmont Avenue toward the park. Tex has said he fell asleep, holding the gun and was jarred awake near the park and the gun went off.

Carter, who was unfamiliar with the area and didn’t know the nearest hospital, said they made their way along Morningside Drive toward Emory University Hospital, her attorney said.

Carter said she has not read or seen the news accounts of what happened. She’s struck with how quickly a wonderful day went bad.

“This was a 40-year relationship that was more like sisters than friends,” she said. She called her friend an amazing person who was “brilliant” and “funny.”

“She was extremely happy with her work and her husband and her life,” Carter said.