The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will conduct an independent investigation on the death of Israel Hernandez, an 18-year-old who was Tased by police on Tuesday night after being caught doing graffiti.
The investigation was launched at the request of the City of Miami Beach, and will accompany the review initiated by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to a press release from the city of Miami Beach.
“I have complete confidence in the integrity and capacity of the Miami Beach Police Department to conduct a fair and thorough investigation,” Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales said in the press release. “But the role of the FDLE will provide further assurance to the public of the thoroughness and transparency of the investigation.”
According to the press release, the investigation could take as long as eight weeks.
“All of us at the City of Miami Beach continue to be saddened by this unfortunate incident and our condolences go out to the Hernandez family,” Morales said in the statement.
Loved ones of Hernandez gathered Thursday night at the scene of his death, on the corner of 71st Street and Collins Avenue. Investigators said police used a Taser on the teen Tuesday after catching him spray-painting graffiti on an abandoned building, reported WSVN-TV.
He was known in the art and skating community as ReeFa, and many signs on the abandoned building memorializing the teen say, "RIP ReeFa."
That officer is now on paid administrative leave.
During the memorial, some teens chanted slogans at Miami Beach Police who appeared at the memorial. "No justice, no peace," they yelled in unison at officers.
Hernandez fled police who spotted him leaving graffiti on the building at around 5 a.m. Tuesday. Felix Fernandez and Thiago Souza were with him that morning. "We seen him running away from the police," said Souza, "and the next minute he's on the floor, surrounded by cops, motionless."
At the site where Hernandez would collapse and die, friends left skateboards, only a couple of days later. "I seen him get smacked up against this wall right here," Fernandez said. "When I came back, he was just laying right here, and they were all laughing about it after they already handcuffed him. I seen him try to pick him up. He was just flopping around, motionless. He couldn't even stand up."
Souza recalled the sight of his friend's motionless body. "The cops were trying to lift his arm to see if like he would resist or some sort of resistance, but his arms would just fall. They would like collapse," he said, "and then they brought out the defibrillator."
An hour later, doctors would pronounce him dead with an internal body temperature of 102 degrees.
When his friends were asked if they were mixing drugs and alcohol they said, "No, we were not mixing alcohol and drugs, nothing like that. We smoked a little bit and then he had a cigarette, and that's it," said Souza. "No alcohol, no pills, nothing."
Upon further questioning, Souza admitted they had smoked some weed before. "Yeah a little bit. Like a little bowl. Not that much," said Souza.
The union that represents Miami Beach officers released a statement that read in part: "The FOP is confident the police officers involved in this incident acted appropriately and within the guidelines of the law and departmental standard operating procedures."
In an earlier interview, the victim's sister, Offir Hernandez, said, "My brother's dead, isn't he? Of course they went to far."
Hernandez' friends now plan to return to the same spot where their friend died, at 1 p.m. Saturday, to protest what they are calling police brutality.
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