LAKELAND, Fla. — A group of people gathered at the intersection of East Memorial Boulevard and North Florida Avenue in Lakeland Wednesday night to protest the shooting death of Michael Taylor, 17.

"Because this happened in my backyard. I was waking up to do something else, but instead I decided to come out here," said Pierre Allen, who chanted and held up a sign that said "Justice for Mike."

Taylor was shot by Lakeland Police officers early Wednesday morning.

The agency said he was trying to flee in a stolen car and accelerated it towards an officer. Police also said they found a loaded gun in the car, and that Taylor has a lengthy criminal history.

Lakeisha Jones said she decided to attend the protest because she has a 19 year old son of her own. She wonders if police could have stopped Taylor some other way.

"The tires could have easily been shot out instead," she said.

Jones said she feels for Taylor's family.

"A mother has lost her child and her child can't be replaced," she said. "I can't see where a vehicle would be more important than a life."

Family: Taylor "had a loveable spirit"

When Michael Jerome Taylor's family spoke of him Wednesday, they described a happy young man loved by his friends and family.

"He loved to laugh, first of all," said Taylor's aunt, Luconia Engram. "He just had the loveable spirit. A lot of people loved him. He's very loved."

That characterization, however, stands at odds with Taylor's criminal record. That record contains a 2016 Winter Haven Police affidavit accusing Taylor of using a gun to carjack a woman, then crashing the car after a high-speed chase.

Taylor was sentenced to 10 months in jail and probation after that incident.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office, meanwhile, accused Taylor of stealing and abandoning a car just last year. 

When asked about the 2016 charge, Taylor's mother, Valentine Irving, said she was unaware of it. When asked why Taylor might have been in the stolen Camaro involved in the shooting early Wednesday, Irving relayed the story she got from Taylor's younger brother.

"I asked my son," Irving said. "He said someone picked him up and it was a rental."

Like today's protesters, Taylor's family did not understand the need for deadly force in Taylor's encounter with police. They said they are, however, sticking together during this difficult time.

Spectrum Bay News 9 Reporter Rick Elmhorst contributed to this report