MIAMI BEACH(CBSMiami) – Three weeks after 18-year-old Israel Hernandez Llach died after being shocked by a police Taser, his family is suing the City of Miami Beach and its Police Chief Raymond Martinez.
“We want justice and support,” said Offir Hernandez LLach, the sister of 18-year-old Israel Hernandez Llach.
“We want to be clear. We are not trying to drag attention to our family. But we are trying to give attention to what my brother needs so there’s no more issues happening in where we live,” Offir Hernandez LLach told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.
Offir Hernandez Llach is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. As she spoke out on the steps of the Dade County Courthouse, she held hands with her father Israel Hernandez Bandera and her mother Luz Jacqueline Llach, who shed tears as her daughter and family attorneys spoke about the lawsuit.
“They are steadfast in their determination that those responsible be held accountable,” said family attorney Todd McPharlin. He said the family is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and is hoping there will be a trial with a jury in this civil case.
Miami Beach Police said they pursued Hernandez Llach early on the morning of August 6th after he illegally sprayed graffiti on a now-closed McDonald’s restaurant at 71st Street and Collins Avenue.
According to police, Officer Jorge Mercado was forced to use the Taser after Hernandez Llach disobeyed three orders to stop and ran at police. Police said the crime suppression team had been looking for him after some other buildings were sprayed with graffiti last year.
But the lawsuit states that Hernandez Llach, who was a promising artist, was unarmed and there was no reason to believe that he posed a threat.
“Let’s not forget a Taser is a weapon. It is a weapon that can cause excruciating and incapacitating pain on a subject,” said McPharlin.
The lawsuit states that police used excessive force and violated the civil rights of Hernandez Llach. The lawsuit also said officers used “unconstitutional force” and had a “reckless disrespect for safety.” It also said officers “high 5’d” each other after Hernandez Llach was shocked by the Taser and did not receive proper medical care.
Martinez has said the report of officers celebrating with “high 5s” has not been confirmed.
Hernandez Llach was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital after the incident where he was pronounced dead.
“We believe the City of Miami Beach and the police department do not properly train or supervise the officers in excessive force,” said McPharlin.
The City of Miami Beach was not commenting about the lawsuit that was filed Tuesday afternoon but earlier this month, Chief Raymond Martinez defended the use of the Taser.
“Everything we have seen and reviewed so far is that the use of the Taser was appropriate,” Martinez told D’Oench on August 9th. “It was a single Tasing. It was not a multiple Tasing by multiple officers. He zig zagged back and forth and eluded police three different times after orders to stop.”
“He was running at officers as best we know and he was Tased in the front,” said Martinez. “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 a Taser.”
“I can say the officer involved is distraught over this 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.”
Martinez said his department has been using Tasers for the past 10 years and said this was the first time someone had died. He said he hopes the results of an autopsy will provide some answers. It could be weeks before those results are ready.
He has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review this case, as will Miami Beach Police Internal Affairs and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
Martinez said, “We want the public to know we are going to conduct a thorough investigation. This is a tragic situation. We are looking for answers as well.”