A 17-year-old was shot and killed by Lakeland police officers after police say the boy drove a stolen car toward an officer through a large crowd.
In a news conference early Wednesday, Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said officers responded to the parking lot of Salem’s Gyros & More restaurant, 101 E. Memorial Blvd., around 2:21 a.m. in reference to a crowd of between 150 to 200 people gathering there.
While officers were at the scene, they noticed a black Chevrolet Camaro, which was reported stolen out of Polk County, according to police.
Officers started moving toward the Camaro and the driver, later identified as 17-year-old Michael J. Taylor, of Winter Haven, according to police.
“The driver of the vehicle noticed officers approaching. He aggressively began to speed through the parking lot, driving at one of our officers, placing them in fear for their life, along with all the other patrons that began to scatter,” Giddens said.
When Taylor began accelerating toward Officer Markais Neal, Neal and two other officers fired an unknown number of shots at the vehicle, according to police.
The car continued through the parking lot and hit several other vehicles and a pole. One of the vehicles struck went through the wall of a nearby business, Giddens said.
Officers pulled Taylor from the driver’s seat and performed first aid. Taylor was taken to Lakeland Regional Health, where he died, according to Giddens. Police found a gun in the car.
At some point, a female passenger jumped out of the vehicle, and was taken into custody, Giddens said.
“There were a lot of people placed into jeopardy this morning, in harm’s way,” Giddens said.
The officers involved — Neal, Joseph Novis and Raj Patel — will be placed on administrative leave for at least three days, per department policy.
The investigation is ongoing. No officers were injured in the incident, according to Spectrum Bay News 9.
Taylor has four prior felony arrests for charges including burglary to grand theft auto, according to police.
Police have been called to the area multiple times in the past, according to Giddens, who called it a “challenging location.” Crowds from a nearby nightclub that releases at 2 a.m. often end up in that area, he said.