The Lakeland Police Department has released surveillance footage showing an incident at a drive-thru restaurant that left a 17-year-old dead following an officer-involved shooting.
According to police, Michael Jerome Taylor, of Winter Haven, was behind the wheel of a black Chevrolet Camaro that joined a crowd of nearly 200 at a Salem’s Fresh Eats restaurant on Florida Avenue and Memorial Boulevard. Police spokesman Gary Gross said officers arrived at the restaurant around 2:21 a.m. and began to disperse the crowd, but more than 100 remained.
Police chief Larry Giddens described the area as “challenging” for police. He said the late-night eatery often serves as a gathering point when a local club closes. Police are frequently called to the area.
The newly released video shows officers approach the Camaro as it sits in the line of a crowded parking lot.
“The driver of the Camaro violently accelerated forward, ignoring multiple commands to stop, and attempted to run over an officer who had to jump in between two parked vehicles to avoid being hit,” Gross said in a news release. “Officers were forced to open fire.”
The video shows the Camaro quickly speed forward in a narrow space between cars, headed directly for officer Markais Neal, who had his gun drawn. As soon as the car accelerates, video shows Neal and other officers open fire directly into the front windshield and rear of the vehicle. Neal jumps back between two vehicles, narrowly avoiding being hit as the Camaro hits both vehicles, and squeezes between more before rear-ending another and sending it onto Florida Avenue.
As the vehicle slows near the edge of the lot, a female passenger is seen running out, her head ducked low. She told officers there was a gun in the vehicle. A loaded gun was later recovered from the car, police said.
The officers continue trying to apprehend Taylor, but he speeds away again, hitting a utility pole and then striking a parked car with enough force to put a hole in the concrete wall behind it.
“This was a chaotic scene,” Giddens said.
Giddens said officers were finally able to remove the injured Taylor and give first aid. He was then transported to a local hospital where he died.
Family and friends gathered at the restaurant later in the day to protest the shooting.
In recent years, there has been debate on when police should fire into moving vehicles and how officers should position themselves when approaching vehicles. Gross said the Lakeland Police Department doesn't have guidelines on officers positioning themselves in front of vehicles and that department policy says they may fire into a moving vehicle only when an officer "reasonably believes it is necessary to do so in order to protect themselves or others from imminent death or great bodily harm."
All officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave per the department's policy. The shooting is also being investigated by the State Attorney's Office.
Taylor has four previous felony arrests ranging from burglary to grand theft auto and was on felony probation as a violent offender of special concern under the anti-murder act for robbery with a weapon, burglary while armed, fleeing and eluding with a high-speed chase, burglary of a conveyance and grand theft auto, police said.
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