Officer On Administrative Leave After Teen Taser Death
South Florida Crime
MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) – Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez is sending his condolences to the family of 18-year-old Israel Hernandez. Martinez also says the officer who shot Hernandez once with a Taser before his death was following police policy.
“I’d like to send my condolences and the condolences of the Miami Beach Police Department to the family of Israel Hernandez,” said Martinez.
“As a parent with three children, I feel for the family and their loss right now,” Martinez told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.
“Everything we have seen and reviewed so far is that the use of the Taser was appropriate,” he said. “It was a single tasing. It was not a multiple tasing by multiple officers.”
Police say it was early Tuesday morning when police pursued Hernandez after he had tagged a vacant storefront and took off.
“He zig zagged back and forth and eluded police three different times after orders to stop,” said Martinez. “He was running at officers as best we know and he was tased in the front. The officer has to make a quick decision at this point. Do I use my taser or do I go hands on to make an arrest? At that point he used his Taser.”
“We’ve been using tasers for over 10 years,” he said.
“Every officer carries a Taser on the street and is tased. I’ve been tased myself.”
“This is a tragic situation. We are looking for answers as well,” said Martinez.
“We want the public to know that we are going to conduct a thorough investigation. We have asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to come in and review our findings and be an independent agency to look at what we have done.”
Hernandez, who was a promising artist, was dead by the time he reached the hospital.
Martinez said he had spoken to the officer who used the Taser, Jorge Mercado.
Mercado is on paid administrative leave.
“I can say he is very distraught over the incident. His intention was not to cause the death of this individual. He was trying to apprehend this individual and do his job,” said Martinez.
The Chief told D’Oench he was awaiting the results of an autopsy on Hernandez. He said that could take four to six weeks.
Meanwhile, Hernandez’s girlfriend Alexandria Morgan arrived in South Florida late Friday night to mourn her boyfriend.
“You were the best thing that ever happened to me and I know that you’re watching from above and you make me strive to be better and achieve my dreams and make the world a better place,” said Morgan. “He was just pure, he still watched Spongebob he had braces this kid was, had such a youthful spirit and positive energy.”
There were some reports from witnesses that after Hernandez was shot with the taser, officers were celebrating and doing “high 5s” with their hands. The Chief said that could not be confirmed.
New details also emerged about Israel Hernandez. Police say the crime suppression time had been looking for Hernandez after some other buildings were tagged and sprayed with graffiti last year.
But police did not know Hernandez’s identity until Tuesday’s incident.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is concerned.
A.C.L.U. Executive Director for Florida Howard Simon told D’Oench, “I know police like to say tasers are less than lethal but they are not. There have been deaths and serious health consequences from using them.”
“The issue is whether this was an appropriate use of the Taser,” said Simon. “This calls for a complete and thorough investigation and not an investigation where police investigate themselves and exonerate themselves and take 2 years or so to do so.”
Simon said this could mean warrant changes in police policy about the use of Taser involving unarmed people.
Also on Friday, friends and family announced plans for a rally to honor Hernandez at 1 p.m. on Saturday at 71st Street and Collins Avenue, where people continue to leave notes of support and flowers.
Chief Martinez has requested an independent investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Attorneys for Hernandez family released statement: “Israel’s family is pleased that their pleas for an independent investigation into the actions of the police officers involved in this young mans 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.”
Morgan said whatever comes of the investigation, she is not angry.
“I forgive you,” said Morgan. “I know that’s something he’s gonna have to live with for forever and it is his cross to bear it’s not my place to place judgment, it’s God’s.”
Family members have set up a fundraiser to help pay for funeral services.
Click Here to donate.