2 protests held for teen Tased by police
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MIAMI (WSVN) -- Dozens of protesters who convened at two separate gatherings held to pay tribute to a South Florida teen who died after being Tased by Miami Beach Police called for an independent investigation into the tragic altercation.
Street artists spray-painted the walls at an event in Wynwood, a gesture of solidarity for fellow graffiti artist Israel Hernandez. "All of you have to remember that only united we are strong," said Offir Hernandez, the teen's sister. "If we're strong, there's going to be changes."
Several hours earlier, dozens of Hernandez supporters at a separate gathering on Miami Beach chanted in unison "No justice, no peace." "We're just here to peacefully support and pay our respects to Israel," said Alexandria, the late teen's girlfriend.
Hernandez, who was nicknamed "Reefa," died early Tuesday morning after he was stunned by police with a Taser. "He was trying to do his job and place this young man under arrest," said Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez. Police said the 18-year-old was tagging a building on 71st Street and Collins Avenue on Miami Beach around 5 a.m. When officers spotted the teenagers, they said he ran from them. "Even though it was only graffiti, it's still a crime," said Martinez. Police said they used a Taser to stop the teen. An hour later, he was pronounced dead.
Under the watchful eye of Miami Beach officers, Hernandez's family thanked supporters for gathering Saturday afternoon. "We thank you from the bottom of our hearts that you've come here today," the teen's mother told the crowd using a bullhorn.
Holding back tears, Alexandria asked protesters to remember "Reefa" for his creativity. "I just want to say [to Israel] that you made me a better person," she said. "You brought me closer to people and to God."
"If you ask me, my personal opinion is that the cops were wrong in doing what they did," said a street artist at the Wynwood event.
Requests by Hernandez's family for an outside agency to conduct an investigation into the case were answered by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which announced Sunday they would look into the teen's death.
Hernandez's friends admitted the teen had been smoking marijuana on the night before he died, but he was not doing any other drugs. The results of his toxicology reports will be made available in about a month.
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