Israel Hernandez died after being Tasered by a Miami Beach Police officer and the police chief is defending the actions of his department.
"They had an encounter," said Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez, according to WSVN. "They were gonna place someone under arrest for a crime. Even though it was only graffiti, it's still a crime. The subject ran from them. Now he's eluding police. It's resisting arrest, if you will. There were several times that Mr. Hernandez had the opportunity to give himself up."
Hernandez reportedly ran from police who spotted him spraying graffiti, according to both friends of Hernandez and police, on a building very early Tuesday. Another officer joined the chase, briefly spotted him, but Hernandez eluded them. However a few seconds later, Officer Jorge Mercado caught up with the teen and, "He continued to run, and at that moment he was running at the officer," said Martinez.
"So the officer has to make a choice," added the police chief, "and the choice is either to utilize a Taser or to go hands-on with the individual and get physical, and that normally involves grabbing, tackling, knocking him to the ground, and then there's a fight usually associated with that."
Martinez said they noticed Hernandez was unresponsive after the Taser strike. "They noticed immediately," said Martinez. "Within a minute they were requesting fire rescue to the scene."
However, a Hernandez friend has a different take.
Felix Fernandez, who was with Hernandez that morning, said he saw police celebrating over the motionless body of his friend. "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."
An hour after the incident, doctors pronounced Hernandez dead with an internal body temperature of 102 degrees.
In 10 years using Tasers, Miami Beach Police said, this has never happened, and they want to know what happened. The police department has asked the FDLE to get involved in the investigation.
Mercado was placed on paid leave pending an investigation. According to The Raw Story, the Miami New Times reported on Friday that Mercado’s record includes charges of battery and excessive force levied against him.
"Israel's family is pleased that their pleas for an independent investigation into the actions of the police officers involved in this young man's death have been heard. The family members, like everyone else who knew and loved Israel, are eager to get to the bottom of what happened. We fully expect the FDLE will conduct a thorough and independent investigation, read a statement from attorneys for Hernandez's family.