LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) - Lakeland Police Department officers say they shot and killed a teenager who tried to run them over in a stolen Camaro and sped through a crowd of 150 to 200 people.
At 2:21 a.m. Wednesday, officers responded to a call about a large crowd that had gathered outside of the Salem’s Gyros and More restaurant at 101 E. Memorial Blvd.
Officers tell News Channel 8 that they arrived to find about 150 to 200 people in the parking lot.
According to police, Officer Raj Patel saw a black Camaro in the parking lot that had been stolen in Winter Haven.
Officers went to approach the car to take the people inside into custody. The driver of the Camaro, Michael Jerome Taylor, 17, saw the officers and tried to flee, according to police.
Officer Markais Neal was in the parking lot south of the vehicle and as the stolen Camaro accelerated directly toward him he fired at the vehicle, according to police.
“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,” said Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens.
Police released surveillance video of the incident, which shows the officers open fire on the teenager.
They said two additional officers fired at the car in an attempt to stop it and protect themselves and people in the parking lot.
“The driver ignored that, continued to drive through the parking lot at a high rate of speed striking several vehicles in the parking lot, struck a light pole, and he ended up ramming into a parked vehicle and knocking it into a bike barn,” said Chief Giddens.
“He hit that car with such force that it knocked that vehicle through a block wall which caused the airbag to deploy."
Police officers provided medical aid to Taylor. He was transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center where he died.
Taylor's mother Kris Irving said she is heartbroken and still in shock. "It’s mainly a state of shock more than anything. When your kid dies, you die too. Not of a physical death but something is missing. It’s not a feeling that anybody want to endure," she said.
The passenger in the stolen Camaro jumped out of the car before it crashed. She was taken into custody. She told police there may have been a gun inside the stolen Camaro.
A gun was found under the car's floorboard.
Chief Giddens said there were a lot of people who were placed in harm’s way during the incident. He said the dangerous scene unfolded after a large crowd had gathered in the restaurant parking lot after a nearby nightclub closed.
“This scene can be very, very challenging. When you have 200 people and you have an incident like this that begins with a car speeding through a lot, you can understand people scattering, people screaming, yelling, a lot of things are going on. A lot of people were placed into danger. It puts our officers in a very, very dangerous spot where they’re in fear for their life, either imminent death, or great bodily harm,” said Giddens.
Police say Taylor has four previous felony arrests ranging from burglary to grand theft auto.
The name of the woman who jumped from the stolen car has not been released.
The officers involved in the shooting are:
- Officer Markais Neal, 28. He has been with the Lakeland Police Department for one year.
- Officer Joseph Novis, 25. He has been with the Lakeland Police Department for one year and six months.
- Officer Raj Patel, 23. He has been with the Lakeland Police Department for one year and six months
The officers are on administrative leave pending an investigation.