Dead, at age 18, the noted Colombian artist Israel “Reefa” Hernandez-Llach, late of Bay Harbor Islands, Florida.
|A painting by "Reefa" Hernandez|
Police apprehended Mr. Hernandez about 5:15 a.m. outside a closed McDonald's franchise as he and a helper who serves as a lookout prepared to paint an impromptu mural on the wall. As he fled, they gave chase and caught him a few blocks away, where they made use of a Taser to subdue him.
An hour later, authorities reported his death at a community hospital.
A native of Barranquilla, Colombia, and a former student of Miami Beach High School, he was the son of a former Avianca pilot, who told the press, “Not even animals deserve that kind of treatment.”
Lawyers who represent the family speculated that had he lived, he would have been charged with criminal mischief, a misdemeanor crime that rarely results in a jail sentence.
In his world, in which he cut a figure skateboarding, sculpting, painting, and making photographs, he was known best for his “tagging” buildings with his rapid-fire murals. He had achieved local renown as an accomplished artist. Two of his sculptures had been displayed in the Miami Art Museum. Friends and family noted that he failed to graduate with his class at Miami Beach High School because of his inability to adjust to Physical Education classes. He was a slender 5 foot, 10 inches in build.
Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez said he awaits toxicology reports from an autopsy ordered to examine the cause of Mr. Hernandez' youthful demise. He had no other injuries.
A 2011 Department of Justice report found that the devices are considered safe for a vast majority of those who are subjected to them and can save lives by immobilizing suspects. Taser use results in few injuries, the study found. Although people have died, the risk is extremely low, the report stated. Often, deaths are associated with pre-existing medical conditions, drug use or a subsequent fall. Continuous or repeated shocks are also associated with deaths, the report stated.
According to Amnesty International, the 17,000 police agencies worldwide that use tasers reported 500 deaths as a result of their use last year.