At approximately 2:21 a.m. this morning, Lakeland police officers responded to Salem’s at the corner of North Florida Avenue and Memorial Boulevard for a large crowd that had congregated after a local club closed for the night. When the officers arrived, they dispersed part of the crowd. Over 100 people remained so the officers continued to monitor the situation. While still on scene, at approximately 2:48 a.m., officers recognized a Camaro that had been reported stolen. It has since been confirmed that the Camaro was in fact stolen. Officers approached the Camaro in order to investigate the felony of Grand Theft Auto. As they did, 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. Officers were forced to open fire. The driver struck multiple vehicles in his violent attempt to flee apprehension. The vehicle then briefly stopped and officers were able to escort a female passenger to safety who informed officers that the driver had a firearm in the vehicle. The driver then again accelerated, proceeding with such force that he propelled a car into the concrete building of the Bike Barn, causing a hole in the wall.
The driver was identified as Michael Jerome Taylor, Jr. The entire incident lasted approximately 42 seconds. It was later learned that the offender 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 conveyance and grand theft auto. It was also confirmed that there was a loaded firearm in the Camaro that had previously been reported stolen.