- Israel Hernandez-Llach died after he was Tased by police who caught him spraying graffiti on an abandoned building last week
- Friends claim they saw Miami Beach police high-five after they Tased him
- Hernandez, an award-winning artist and photographer, was laid to rest in Miami Lakes on Wednesday as his sobbing family looked on
Daily Mail Reporters
15:49 EST, 15 August 2013
16:20 EST, 15 August 2013
An 18-year-old artist who died after he was Tased by police for spraying graffiti on an abandoned building has been laid to rest in an emotional ceremony in Miami.
Jacqueline Llach, the mother of Israel Hernandez-Llach, was seen clasping other family members as she sobbed and followed close behind his casket, which was buried at Vista Memorial Gardens in Miami Lakes on Wednesday.
The funeral home donated its services to the grieving family.
As around 100 relatives and friends gathered, Hernandez’s sister Offir and mother poured sand over the casket as it was lowered to the ground, their faces awash with grief.
The cause of the teenager’s death has not yet been released by the coroner’s office, but at the funeral, the family claimed that the teenager was covered in bruises when he died.
Heartbreak: Israel Hernandez-Llach’s mother, Jacqueline Llach (holding a flower to her face) sobs as she attends the burial of her son, who died after he was Tased by police last week
This revelation could further fuel
the outrage over how Miami Beach police officers handled Hernandez.
Witnesses said that officers high-fived as the youngster lay dying after
he was Tased.
were bad bruises on the body that shows it was more than just a laser,’
family spokesperson Fabio Andrade told NBC Miami.
Neira Sheffer, a family friend who is a lawyer, added: ‘The way the police executed things was not the most appropriate.’
distraught father called for an investigation into what he called an
‘act of barbarism and assassination’ as Officer Jorge Mercado, a 13-year
veteran of the force, was placed on paid administrative leave – pending
an investigation – for his involvement.
Laid to rest: Pallbearers for the 18-year-old graffiti artist arrive at the service in Miami Lakes on Wednesday
Heartbreak: Family and friends comforted each other at the funeral, held a week after his sudden death
The teenager, an award-winning
artist, was stunned in the chest after officers reportedly caught him
spray-painting the front of a closed McDonald’s and gave chase for ten
minutes before catching him.
Souza, who was with Hernandez-Llach and acting as his lookout, said the
chase began as soon as the officers approached them and told them to
Losing sight of his friend during the chase, Souza caught up to him to find Hernandez-Llach face-down on the sidewalk.
didn’t even know they fired a Taser. I thought they just had him down
and he was arrested and was just tired,’ Souza said to the Miami Herald.
‘I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,’ said Souza, 19. ‘I asked the cops ‘what happened to my friend?’
Souza then alleges that the police began to make fun of how they caught the teenage artist.
Saying goodbye: Jacqueline Llach pours sand on her son’s casket during his burial on Wednesday
Farewell: His sister, Offir Hernandez, pours sand onto the boys casket, as outrage swirls around his death
Missed: Nearly 100 friends and relatives came to say goodbye to the talented artist and skateboarder
‘He said, “You should have seen how
funny it was when his butt clenched when he got Tased” he said, and they
were all clapping and doing high-fives all over his body. It was almost
like they were proud of what they did.’
It was then that they all noticed medics working furiously to revive Hernandez, after he lost consciousness.
‘The cop told me he was dead. It was just a powerful image seeing my friend there, with the medics pumping him.’
Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez said his department was
investigating the incident and expressed his condolences to the family
of Hernandez, a Colombian immigrant who graduated from high school this
Tragedy: Hernandez was Tased by police after he ran away from them when he was caught spraying graffiti
According to the police report, Hernandez fled after he was confronted by police about 5 a.m.
The pursuit ended with Hernandez cornered and, with nowhere to go, he began running toward the officers, Martinez said Wednesday.
To avoid physically restraining Hernandez, Officer Jorge Mercado used his Taser.
Martinez said after being
stunned, the teenager began showing signs of distress and
paramedics were called
He was transported to Mount Sinai Hospital,
where he was pronounced dead about 6:15 a.m.
The boy’s family held a press conference with lawyers
at their Miami Beach apartment last week to say they planned to file a
complaint with the FBI or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
over what they described as excessive use of force by the officers
Bright Future: Hernandez-Llach was an awardñwinning artist known as ‘Reefa,’ who won acclaim for his graffiti work as well as sculpting and painting, according to The Miami Herald
Missed: Thiago Souza, 19, a friend of Israel Hernandez, shows a sketch that Hernandez drew to members of the media in Miami Beach last week. His friend is pictured with an unidentified woman, right
‘We do not want Miami Beach police
investigating the Miami Beach Police Department. We’re calling for an
independent investigation by an outside agency,’ said Jose Javier
Rodriguez, an attorney for the family and a Florida state legislator.
is no justification of this kind of action for a second-degree
misdemeanor,’ said Jason W. Kreiss, another lawyer representing the
Hernandez would likely not have been prosecuted over the spray-painting and would have faced a punishment of community service, he added.
in Miami have not made any of the reports of the incident public, but
Officer Thomas Lincoln, who wrote the official incident report said that
he did not see Hernandez shot by the Taser.
He said that when he arrived on the scene the teen was ‘sitting on the ground and against a wall.’.
Martinez said Hernandez-Llach fled after being seen ‘vandalizing private property’ shortly before dawn on Tuesday.
Israel Hernandez-Llach is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of Heather Bozzone. Miami Beach police are investigating the death of the 18-year-old graffiti artist
Tribute: People view the wall where Israel Hernandez-Llach was seen performing graffiti by police in Miami Beach, Florida, August 8th, 2013
Hernandez, who identified himself by the so-called tag name ‘Reefa’, was known for his graffiti work as well as for his sculptures and paintings.
did it a lot,’ said Hernandez’s friend, Rafael Lynch, referring to his
graffiti. ‘He wasn’t a bad person at all. The cops didn’t like him or
what he looked like.’
‘In my 20 years as an art teacher,
Israel was one of the most unique and talented students I have ever
encountered,’ added Frank O’Hare, his art teacher at Miami Beach High.
Officer Jorge Mercado has a checkered history with the Miami Beach police.
According to his internal affairs record, Mercado has had six complaints filed against him ranging from battery to violating the department’s code of respect.
However, all the complaints were dismissed bar one – a violation of drug testing procedures in January 2011 for which he was suspended for 160 hours.