LAKELAND, Fla. (FOX 13) - Lakeland police officers fired shots at a suspected stolen vehicle as its driver tried to flee a packed parking lot early Wednesday morning.
The Lakeland Police Department says it happened in the parking lot of Salem’s Gyros & More restaurant, on East Memorial Boulevard, around 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Officers were called to the restaurant because a large crowd had gathered after the closing of a nearby nightclub.
When officers arrived, one officer spotted a Chevy Camaro which matched the description of one earlier reported stolen to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Multiple officers approached the vehicle. That's when the driver, identified as 17-year-old Michael Jerome Taylor, accelerated the car forward, nearly running over one officer, Officer Markais Neal, and hitting at least two parked vehicles.
"Lots of people in the parking lot, officers began to move toward the vehicle, give the verbal commands," said Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens. "The driver of the vehicle noticed the officers approaching. He aggressively began to speed through the parking lot, driving at one of our officers, placing them in fear for their life."
Surveillance video from the restaurant shows the Camaro trying to plow through parked cars and pedestrians in the parking lot.
The Lakeland Police Department said Officer Neal was in fear for his life and fired shots at the vehicle.
LPD says two other officers also fired shots at the Camaro as it accelerated through the parking lot.
At one point, the Camaro stops and a female passenger gets out. LPD says she was detained.
The Camaro then speeds ahead, hitting another vehicle, which then hit the side of an outer wall of the business.
Officers were able to get Taylor out of the Camaro.
LPD said Taylor was shot during the incident and later died at the hospital.
LPD said officers found a firearm in the driver's side floorboard of the vehicle.
It was not known how many times Taylor was shot or how many rounds the officers fired. The Lakeland Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit and The State Attorney’s Office is investigating.
All officers involved in the incident, Officer Markais Neal, 28; Joseph Novis, 25; and Raj Patel, 23, have been placed on paid administrative leave for a minimum of three days.
"A lot of people were placed in danger," Giddens said. "It puts our officers in a very dangerous spot when they are in fear for their life or imminent death or great bodily harm. We will determine through the investigation, the justification of this incident."
Kris Irving, Taylor's mother, said she was in a state of shock, following her son's death.
"When your kid dies, you die, too," Irving said. "Not a physical death, but something is missing. It is not a feeling anyone wants to endure."
Through her grief, Irving is determined to find the truth regarding what happened in her son's final moments.
"I can't even speak on his side of their side because I don't know," Irving said. "As a teenager, what can you do. We talked to him constantly. Always gave him advice. Try to steer him in the right direction. He just wasn't ready."