LAKELAND, Fla. — Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said Thursday he believes his officers acted according to the department's use of force policy in reference to the shooting of Michael Taylor on December 26.
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The deadly police shooting of the 17-year-old in the chaotic, crowded parking lot of about 200 people has some people very upset.
"It's very scary, because I thought the police was supposed to protect us. They got me scared,” said Tomyah Rivers, who was in a car behind Taylor when she said she heard at least seven shots.
Surveillance video released by Lakeland Police showed Taylor driving towards an officer, and then officers shooting at Taylor. The officers were trying to stop him for being in a stolen car.
"This person ignored multiple verbal commands," Giddens explained. "All that suspect had to do was follow those commands and the next 46 seconds wouldn't have happened and he wouldn't have lost his life tragically."
We asked Giddens what he would've done if he was there.
"I believe the tactics [the officers] used that night, based on everything they were dealing with — the time, the location, the space, the number of people — I think our officers did a very, very good job,” Giddens said.
Reginald Ardis, the President of the Lakeland branch of the NAACP, disagreed. He met with the Giddens Thursday.
"I felt there's a possibility that maybe the police could've moved in and blocked the entrance," Ardis said. "I thought that might have been some consideration that could've been put in place. I was concerned so many shots were fired when there's a lot people in the immediate vicinity."
Ardis said Giddens disagreed with him.
“Was there an option to not approach the vehicle? What does that say? Are we not going to try to take criminals into custody? What do you do there," Giddens said. "Do you just let it leave and then we get into a pursuit and some innocent family gets hit,”
Others believe the officers should have aimed for the stolen car's tires, but Giddens disagreed on that option, as well.
"Shooting the tires is not good practice because it will not stop the vehicle,” Giddens said.
Ardis wants parents to step up in order to prevent this from happening in the future.
"We want the community to understand that the police have a job to do, but we need to be more protective of our kids," Ardis said. "We need to tell them there's nothing good going to happen at 2:30 in the morning."
Giddens said they are still investigating this shooting along with the state attorney's office. He estimates the investigation may take six to eight months.