MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — More than 200 people marched through Miami Beach on Sunday, Oct. 6, clogging tourist-filled sidewalks to demand the arrest of a policeman who fired a stun gun at a graffiti artist who died in police custody on Aug. 6.
The protesters alleged that Officer Jorge Mercado used excessive force when he used a Taser on Israel Hernandez-Llach, 18, during an arrest attempt in August.
Israel Hernandez-Llach, 18, dead after being tased by Florida cop Jorge Mercado Aug. 6, 2013.
“He was sentenced like a prisoner when he goes before a firing squad,” Hernandez-Llach’s father, Israel Hernandez Bandera, said on the steps of Miami Beach City Hall.
Friends, family and supporters carried signs reading “Paint is temporary, death is forever” and chanted “No justice, no peace” in English and Spanish.
Hernandez-Llach was prolific graffiti artist nicknamed “Reefa,” and the march was led by the Justice for Reefa Committee and the American Community Council. Marchers asked that Mercado be fired and arrested and that the Miami Beach Police Department change its policy regarding use of stun guns.
Police discovered Colombian-born Hernandez-Llach spray-painting the wall of an abandoned McDonald’s early on the morning of Aug. 6. The teenager fled, evading police for several minutes before he was cornered and stunned with the Taser.
He died shortly afterward and friends who were with him said they heard and saw officers celebrating and high fiving while the young man’s body lay on the ground.
Medical examiners have yet to release a toxicology report or cause of death. Miami Beach Police have declined to comment pending an ongoing investigation.
The teenager’s father submitted a letter late last month to the U.S. Department of Justice and President Barack Obama alleging that police used excessive force and refused to provide him with information regarding the incident.
“I’m not an investigator, just a broken father who wants answers,” he wrote.