Family Questions Bruising On Face Of Teen Fatally Tased By Miami Beach Police
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MIAMI (CBS4) - Family members are raising new questions about the death of 18-year-old Israel Hernandez who died shortly after being shocked once by a police taser last week.
Both Hernandez’s uncle, Tony Delgado, and family spokesman Fabio Andrade tell CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that Hernandez’s face had bruises all around his chin.
They say they noticed the bruises when they looked at the body of Hernandez during his repose or wake at Vista Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home on Tuesday night in Miami Lakes.
“This was confirmed after witnesses and what the family said they saw and that was bruises on the lower part of his face,” said Andrade.
“I agree with everything Fabio said and today let him rest in peace,” said Delgado who spoke with D’Oench before and after funeral services were held for Hernandez Wednesday afternoon at the Vista Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home.
“He was very good. He was a very good talent,” said Delgado about Hernandez, who was a promising artist who had won a series of art contests. “He was a star in his life. This is very unfair. This is very unfair what happened.”
Delgado was one of more than 130 family members and friends who attended the services and the emotional gravesite ceremony.
“Everything is very sad,” said Delgado. “We are expecting justice. That’s all I can say right now. The family is destroyed. We are expecting justice to be served.”
On Wednesday, the Miami Beach Police Department released the dispatch recordings from the morning Hernandez died.
In them, an officer sounds as though he is running, while telling the dispatcher he is going after a Latin male, around 6’1″, along Collins Ave.
Less than seven minutes into the recording, an officer is heard saying the man is in custody.
A few seconds later, a cop can be heard saying, “don’t know if this guy is having a seizure. Roll rescue on a 3.”
Dispatch called for fire rescue to respond.
“We need engine back-up for a cardiac arrest,” can be heard on the recording.
Autopsy results are pending.
The story has drawn nationwide attention and is making headlines in Colombia, where one newspaper “El Tiempo” has been running a series of stories.
The Governor of the Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce in Miami is also raising questions.
“I think he suffered some type of terrible pain,” said the Chamber’s Governor, Ricardo Tribin. “An active investigation is what we want. We want a clear explanation of what happened.”
It was around 5 a.m. on Tuesday August 6th when officers pursued Hernandez after he had illegally sprayed graffiti on a now-closed McDonald’s restaurant on the corner of 71st Street and Collins Avenue.
Police say Hernandez took off running and zig zagged around the neighborhood and refused orders on three different occasions to stop. They say he scaled a fence and crashed on to the hood of a car. Police say after he was cornered, he ran at officers and was then shocked once with a taser.
He was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital and was pronounced dead about an hour later.
Miami Beach Police spokesman Bobby Hernandez told D’Oench that neither he nor Police Chief Raymond Martinez could not comment anymore on camera because of a new gag order from city officials.
Police sources have told CBS4 that Hernandez had no abuse or significant trauma to his body other than the cardiac arrest from the incident.
Authorities also say bruises to Hernandez’s face could have resulted after he scaled the fence and landed on the car. They also say his face could have been bruised after he was shocked in the front of his body by the taser and fell forward on his face.
Police do not consider tasers to be a lethal weapon and say deaths from them are uncommon. They also say tasers have dramatically reduced the number of deaths nationwide when used during confrontations with violent subjects.
Last Friday, Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez told D’Oench that the taser was used appropriately by Officer Jorge Mercado, who is on administrative leave with pay because of the incident.
“I can say he is very distraught over the incident,” said Martinez. “His intention was not to cause the death of this individual. He was trying to apprehend this individual and do his job. It was a single tasing. It was not a multiple tasing by multiple officers.”
The chief said he hoped the autopsy would provide some answers. Bobby Hernandez told D’Oench that the chief had asked that the autopsy be expedited. But he said it still could take four weeks to get the results.
The case is being investigated by Miami Beach Police internal affairs and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. Chief Martinez has also asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to enter the case and review his department’s findings.
Martinez said his department had been using tasers for the past 10 years and no one else has died.
“Every officer carries a taser on the street and is tased,” he said. “I’ve been tased myself. This is a tragic situation. We are looking for answers as well.”
On Wednesday morning, the owner of the building where friends and family left spray painted messages for Hernandez had the property pressure cleaned and painted.
Officers remained on scene Wednesday night patrolling the area.