The woman who led New Mexico police on a high-speed chase that ended with their shooting at her minivan full of children said she drove off after a traffic stop to protect her family from a "terrifying individual."
In a jailhouse letter to the Taos News that was published in the newspaper's op-ed section Thursday, Oriana Ferrell, 39, wrote that her treatment by police and the media has been unjust, and insisted that she'd always been a good mother to her children.
"As a single, African-American mother of five in this country, things are tough enough I should not have to endure harassment at the hands of someone who has been hired to protect the citizens of this land over an alleged 'speeding offense.' No one should," Ferrell, who is from Tennessee, wrote. "As a tourist who came to Taos, New Mexico, with the intention of supporting the wonderful sights and offerings of this city, I should not sit in jail right now for continuing to do the best by my children as their mother."
She also wrote: "A uniformed officer can shoot three bullets at my van and be considered to be doing his 'job,' but my doing what I can to get my own children away from such a terrifying individual has been termed 'child abuse' and 'endangerment,' according to New Mexico law."
Ferrell also wrote that "hundreds of people across the world" could verify that her children's safety and well-being were of paramount importance to her, adding, "I am considered a mothering mentor to many, and a model parent to most."
The newspaper says it ordinarily would not publish op-ed pieces on ongoing legal cases, but made an exception because of the national attention on the case.
Ferrell penned the letter last month as she sat in a New Mexico jail on child abuse and evading police charges. She has since been released on bail. Ferrell declined to comment to ABC News on her attorney's advice.
The incident has attracted national attention and sparked an intense debate about the police department's use of force and about Ferrell's actions.
The Oct. 28 incident began when Ferrell was pulled over by a New Mexico State Police officer for going 71 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone. She had been taking her children, whom she home-schools, on a trip to the Rio Grande.
Video from the police dashboard camera shows the woman and the officer arguing, and when the officer goes back to his car to check paperwork, the woman drives away and is pulled over again by the same officer.
When the officer goes to the car a second time, he opens the door and demands that Ferrell get out of the car, yelling "Get out of the vehicle right now!"
She refuses, and the officer tries to pull her out of the car as her five children, ages 6 to 18, start screaming from inside the vehicle. After a few moments, the woman's 14-year-old son tries to engage the officer, who pulls his Taser and orders the boy back into the vehicle. The boy complies.
The officer again tries to get the woman to leave the vehicle, telling her that she is already facing charges for leaving the scene from the first time he pulled her over.
The woman eventually complies, but when the officer tells her to turn around and face the minivan, she tries to run back into the driver's seat. The incident quickly escalates -- with the woman's son engaging the officer. Only after the officer aims his Taser at the boy does he run back into the van.