LAKELAND, Fla. — About a week after the State Attorney's Office cleared Lakeland Police officers of any criminal wrongdoing in the 2018 death of teen Michael Taylor protestors are calling for an independent investigation.
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Dozens of people gathered outside the Polk County Courthouse Friday afternoon, holding signs and lying on the ground.
"This is going to stop and it starts today. You can't kill our young people and just keep going," said Clayton Cowart, who organized the protest.
Taylor was shot on Dec. 26, 2018 in the parking lot of Salem's Gyros & Subs in Lakeland.
In a nine-page letter, the state attorney's office called the actions of the officers involved "justified."
The officers said Taylor was driving a stolen car and they tried to stop him in the parking lot.
They said he refused to comply and accelerated towards one of the officers who was standing in front of the car.
In the letter, that officer is quoted as saying, "he looked directly in my eyes and gunned it right towards me."
The officers said they feared for their safety and the safety of other people in the crowded parking lot at the time.
However, Cowart questions that story.
"We felt that he was killed execution-style and he was not attempting to run over an officer," he explained. "Witnesses have told us that this young man had lifted his hands up to comply with the officers and the officers shot him anyway."
The state attorney's office also said it interviewed multiple witnesses and reviewed surveillance video before reaching its conclusion.
Cowart and other protestors said they would like to see an outside investigation.
"We need people who are going to say, 'Listen, I'm not biased. If law enforcement is wrong, I'm going to hold you accountable. If the community is wrong, I'm going to hold them accountable,'" he said.
The NAACP is also asking for an independent investigation to go over the police department's procedures to see whether the officer's actions that night are in line with professional standards.