Miami teenager dies after being tasered by police
An investigation is underway in Miami, Florida after an 18-year-old Colombian immigrant died early Tuesday following a foot chase with police officers that ended with a Taser blast to the teenager’s chest.
Israel Hernandez passed away early Tuesday after being transported from police custody to a South Florida emergency room. He was pursued by the police after caught spray-painting an abandoned McDonald’s restaurant and was apprehended once a cop fired an electric charge from his Taser gun.
Authorities are awaiting the results of an autopsy and toxicology report in order to make a determination on the cause of death. Meanwhile, friends and family of Hernandez are mourning the loss of a local teen known among Miami peers as an accomplished street artist and skateboarder.
"I just can’t believe it," Rafael Lynch, a friend and co-worker at the MIA Skate Shop, told the Miami New Times. "I still have his hat and his board. They still smell like him. It's crazy. This dude wasn't a regular dude. He wasn't into partying. I've seen him drink a beer in the past but nothing to get fucked up. I loved this person. He was very different. He had a passion for skating and art and many other things. He taught me a lot."
According to the police, Hernandez was apprehended after around a half-dozen officers pursued him early Tuesday for allegedly defacing the vacant McDonald’s building.
“At 5:14 a.m. on August 6, 2013, Miami Beach Police Officers observed a subject vandalizing private property (graffiti) on 71st Street and Collins Avenue. As Officers approached, the subject fled the scene, ensuing a foot pursuit by Officers. During the foot pursuit, the subject encountered Officers face to face at 71st and Harding Avenue, and ignored Officers' commands to stop. In order to affect his arrest, an Officer deployed his conducted electrical weapon (TASER). The subject was placed into custody,” Miami Beach Police Department Chief Raymond Martinez told the New Times.
“Once in custody, the subject displayed signs of medical duress. Miami Beach Fire Rescue responded to the scene and transported the subject to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead,” Martinez said.
Friends of Hernandez watched the incident unfold and paint a much different picture. Thiago Souza was acting as a lookout as Hernandez tagged the empty McDonalds, and said that one cops caught his friend they shoved him against a wall, prompting the artist to fall on the ground where he soon became still.
“His body was on the floor like motionless, and they were all just laughing," Souza told WSVN News.
Another friend on the scene, Felx Fernandez, told the network that the officers were high-fiving and congratulating one another after subduing Hernandez.
“That made me feel terrible inside. These cops are gruesome, and they don't really care," Fernandez said.
Chief Martinez said that there is an ongoing investigation and that “The City of Miami Beach would like to extend their condolences to the family of Israel Hernandez.” He added that an investigation is open and ongoing, but so far the department has only released a four-page police report written by an officer who wasn’t on the scene at the time Hernandez was apprehended or tased.
Asked by WSVN reporters if she thought police used excessive force, sister Offir Hernandez said, "My brother is dead, isn't he? Of course they went too far.”
“He wanted to change the world somehow through art,” she told the Miami Herald. “We want answers. We only want to know what happened.”
“[I]t was an honor to work with him,’’ added Miami Beach High art teacher Herb Kelly. “He was cutting edge. He had such awesome potential. To lose his life the way he did is tragic.’’
Hernandez had only recently turned 18 and moved to the US from Colombia shortly before high school. Attorneys for his family are asking for an independent investigation into the incident.