A Miami Beach, Fla., teenager who died in police custody after he was Tasered has left his family grieving and his community asking if his death could have been prevented.
Israel Hernandez-Llach, 18, was spotted vandalizing private property in Miami Beach with graffiti by police officers on Tuesday morning at 5:14 a.m. local time, according to a statement from police. Hernandez ran from officers, who chased him on foot. When they caught up to him a block later, Hernandez allegedly ignored officers’ commands to stop running, and an officer Tasered him and arrested him.
Once he was in custody, Hernandez-Llach “displayed signs of medical duress,” according to the police statement. He was transported to Miami Beach’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 6:15 a.m. on Tuesday, according to a police report.
The death of the Miami Beach Senior High student, known for his artistic achievements — including a congressional honor from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for his art, according to sister Offir Hernandez-Llach, who spoke to NBC Miami — prompted his family to hire attorneys. The attorneys said they were calling for outside agencies to investigate the case.
“We don’t know exactly what happened in this case, and we want to make sure we know with absolute certainty what did happen, and for that reason, we would like it to be an outside law enforcement agency,” Jose Javier Rodriguez said earlier in the week, NBC Miami reported.
Miami Beach police would not comment to NBC News on the case beyond their statement, which says an investigation into the incident is open and ongoing. Autopsy and toxicolgy test results for the teen are also still pending. Hernandez-Llach did not have any other injuries, police said.
“The City of Miami Beach would like to extend their condolences to the family of Israel Hernandez,” Police Chief Raymond A. Martinez said in the statement.
On Thursday evening, tensions escalated at a vigil in Miami Beach to honor Hernandez-Llach.
Supporters of Hernandez-Llach chanted “No justice, no peace!” in front of the abandoned storefront where Hernandez had spray-painted gold graffiti during the early dawn hours on Tuesday before police saw him, NBC Miami reported. Police were forced to move in to control the crowd, the station reported.
The demonstrators on Thursday echoed a sentiment expressed earlier in the week expressed by Hernandez’s sister.
“We’ll appreciate it very much if you can support [us], because art is nothing to be killed for,” Offir Hernandez-Llach said.