Lakeland, FL – An armed teenager behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle was fatally shot by police on early Wednesday morning, after he drove the car through a crowd of people and tried to run over a police officer (video below).
The incident began at approximately 2:20 a.m., when Lakeland police responded to a report of a large after-bar crowd that had gathered outside a restaurant on Memorial Boulevard, WFLA reported.
Police estimated there were between 150 and 200 individuals congregated in the area when they arrived.
At approximately 2:48 a.m., Lakeland Police Officer Raj Patel, 23, spotted a black Chevrolet Camaro in the bustling lot, and recognized it as having been reported as stolen out of Winter Haven.
Surveillance footage showed the officers as they approached the vehicle in the jam-packed lot.
But the driver, later identified as 17-year-old Michael Jerome Taylor, saw them heading his way and tried to take off, police said.
“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,” Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens told WFLA.
Lakeland Police Officer Markais Neal, 28, scrambled to get out of the path of the stolen vehicle as it barreled directly at him, the video showed.
He fired at the car, as did two additional officers, WFLA reported.
Taylor crashed into another car as he made his way across the lot.
He paused briefly, at which point a female passenger jumped out of the stolen vehicle, the video showed.
She was taken into custody, and told police that there was a firearm in the car, the department said in the video release.
Meanwhile, Taylor suddenly accelerated again, and drove out of clear view of the security camera.
“The driver…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,” Chief Giddens explained.
“He hit that car with such force that it knocked that vehicle through a block wall which caused the airbag to deploy,” the chief added.
Taylor was rushed to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Police later discovered a loaded firearm inside the stolen vehicle.
It was unclear how many times Taylor was hit or how many rounds the three officers fired at him, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
“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,” Chief Giddens said, according to WFLA.
“A lot of people were placed into danger,” he added. “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.”
Taylor’s criminal history included four prior felony arrests , WFLA reported.
Police said he had previous convictions for burglary while armed, robbery with a weapon, burglary conveyance, fleeing and eluding with a high-speed chase, and grand theft auto.
Taylor, a designated violent offender, was also on felony probation at the time of the encounter, police said.
Officer Neal, Officer Patel, and 25-year-old Officer Joseph Novis have all been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the officer-involved shooting investigation.
You can watch surveillance footage of the chaotic scene in the video below: