MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Police arrested a man for allegedly defacing a political candidate’s sign Friday night.
The sign was for Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez.
According to Miami Police, a sergeant from the Wynwood Problem Solving Team was on routine patrol at approximately 9:30 p.m. near Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast 34th Street when he said he saw Kevin Young, 28, defacing the sign.
The sergeant said Young was using a permanent marker to write on the sign.
A Miami Police spokesperson said investigators did not yet know the intent of the vandalism.
However, Commissioner Suarez has come under fire for a campaign advertisement that is part of his mayoral campaign and that advertisement has prompted strong criticism from the law enforcement community.
A picture released by the Miami Police Department shows the sign that was defaced Friday night with the word “FRAUD” written over Francis’ first name.
At the bottom of the sign, the words “RIP Reffa” are also written. Police have not said whether they believe Young is responsible for all the graffiti on the sign.
While the spelling is not exactly the same, some people suggested that “Reffa” may have been a reference to “Reefa”.
“Reefa” is the nickname of 18-year-old Israel Hernandez, who was reportedly shocked by an officer’s Taser on Miami Beach earlier in August and died.
According to police Hernandez was vandalizing a vacant building on 71st and Collins on August 6th. When officers approached Hernandez, the teen took off running and despite several warnings to stop, police said he continued to flee.
Officers reportedly caught up with Hernandez and Officer Jorge Mercado reportedly deployed his Taser to subdue Hernandez.
After the shock by the Taser and while Hernandez was in police custody, according to the incident report, he started to show symptoms of medical duress and Miami Beach Fire Rescue was dispatched to the scene.
The family and friends of Hernandez called him a promising young artist and requested an independent investigation into the officer’s actions.
Following the death of Hernandez, Commissioner Suarez released the campaign advertisement featuring the teen while attacking Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.
A profile picture of Hernandez’s face and a picture of him on a skateboard were shown along with a statement making reference to the teen’s death.
The ad read “My thoughts and prayers go out to Israel Hernandez and his family. This tragic event has affected the entire Miami community and has hit close to home for a lot of residents. The current City of Miami Mayor has said “that we will fight violence with violence”. If the City of Miami and its surrounding cities are truly going to become influential cities of the future, we must reconsider this way of thinking.”
Also, the campaign advertisement had Francis Suarez’ signature at the bottom.
The comment about violence from Regalado was made three years ago in a discussion of Miami’s high crime areas.
The President of Fraternal Order of Police, Sergeant Javier Ortiz, released a statement defending the use of Tasers and the officer’s actions, but criticized Commissioner Suarez’ campaign for Miami Mayor by using the teenager’s death for a political advertisement saying, “There is not a single law enforcement officer that would’ve wanted Israel Hernandez to die for committing a criminal act.”
The statement by the FOP, also referenced Commissioner Suarez’ vote July 11, to purchase more Tasers for the Miami Police Department.
The statement by Ortiz went on to read, “The Miami Fraternal Order of Police supports Miami Beach Officer Jorge Mercado in his actions that evening. I’m sure Commissioner Suarez would feel different about the incident if it was his property that was vandalized by this criminal.”
Commissioner Suarez responded to the Fraternal Order of Police statement.
“The statement of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police misses the point. I was not attacking the police in the tragic death of Israel Hernandez-Llach. I was expressing sympathy for Israel and his family. I was however attacking the policy of Mayor Regalado who has said that “we will fight violence with violence”. The Mayor’s policy fighting violence with violence is the wrong policy for Miami. Mayor Regalado should renounce that policy, and do so immediately,” the statement by Commissioner Suarez read.
Commissioner Suarez told CBS4’s Maggie Newland he does not think the vandalism, Friday, is any sort of backlash against the campaign ad, but when asked if he regretted the posting he said this: “Anytime there’s any sort of criticism or backlash over something you do you obviously regret doing it. Certainly I would’ve preferred not to be in a situation where I had to explain the post, but again that’s part of being a leader. You take responsibility we posted it you take responsibility for it you move forward.”
Earlier in the week Suarez fired a campaign aid for posts on Twitter which included one telling constituents to “get a hobby, a life a lobotomy.. whatever.. “
“Obviously what she tweeted was unacceptable. I found out the second day of other tweets that were worse and I took what I thought was the appropriate action,” said Suarez.
Suarez said someone has been defacing his signs in a similar way to what happened Friday night (changing Francis to ‘fraud’) throughout the campaign.
Commissioner Suarez went on to say, “It’s unfortunate this young man chose too spend his time defacing signs.” He added, ‘We need to make this campaign about issues not about signs.”
Police are still investigating Young’s motive for allegedly defacing the sign Friday night.
James Fayad, who knows Young, says Young is into art and politics. “I guess you could say he was always fighting for the people,” said Fayad.
Young was arrested and charged with one count of criminal mischief and he is being held for an outstanding Monroe County warrant.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Miami Police Department’s Burglary Unit at (305) 603-6030.
Callers wanting to remain anonymous should contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (4877).