Teen's death investigated after police use Taser gun
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) -- Detectives are investigating the death of a South Florida teen after police said they were forced to use a Taser gun when he gave chase after being spotted spray painting a building.
On Tuesday morning, Felix Fernandez and Thiago Souza were acting as lookouts for their friend Israel Hernandez while he spray-painted an empty building located on 71st Street and Collins Avenue. "He was actually well known for his art," said Fernandez.
Before Hernandez finished the graffiti, Miami Beach Police spotted him, and he took off running.
According to Miami Beach Police, Hernandez hid in a building, jumped a fence and did not cooperate with police orders. When one officer was in close reach he fired his Taser at Hernandez.
In the only incident report released by Miami Beach Police, there was no mention of the Taser used. Only in the public statement released by police, as well as extending their condolences to the family.
According to Hernandez' friends, they said the officers shoved Hernandez against a wall, and he was then seen motionless on the ground. "I seen him get smacked up against this wall right here," Souza 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."
Fernandez and Souza said the officers were high-fiving and congratulating each other as their friend was in need of medical help. "That made me feel terrible inside. These cops are gruesome, and they don't really care," said Fernandez.
Hernandez was transported to the hospital where doctors pronounced him dead.
The victim's sister is grief stricken by the death of her brother and said police used excessive force. "My brother is dead, isn't he? Of course they went too far," said Offir Hernandez.
While Hernandez's family and friends blame police for the death, detectives said his cause of death is still unknown.
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.
Miami Beach Police did not want to give an interview but released a statement: "This incident is an open and ongoing investigation. The City of Miami Beach would like to extend their condolences to the family of Israel Hernandez."
Hernandez had just turned 18 years old. He recently graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School.
Toxicology results from Hernandez' autopsy will likely not be back for weeks. But, sources close to the investigation told 7News that Hernandez had no trauma to his body, contradicting reports that he was beaten. Sources also said, his core body temperature was 102 degrees an hour after he died.
Hernandez's family is looking for answers as to why police have not released any information to what happened. "We are calling for an independent investigation by an outside law enforcement agency, as to exactly what happened and who is responsible," Todd McPharlin, family attorney to the Hernandez family said.
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