The artist Israel Hernandez-Llach, 18, died early Tuesday morning after being Tasered by Miami Beach Police officers who spotted him tagging a vacant McDonald’s restaurant near the intersection of 71st Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, the Miami Herald reports. Hernandez-Llach, a painter and sculptor who was also known by his tag, “Reefa,” had finished writing the first letter of his tag, according to a photo obtained by the Miami New Times, when he was spotted by officers who chased him for several blocks and through a building before Tasering him. He was then taken to Miami’s Mt. Sinai Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 6:15am, according to the Miami Beach Police report.
“The officers were forced to use the Taser to avoid a physical incident,” Ray Martinez, Miami Beach’s chief of police, told the Herald. Hernandez-Llach was reportedly shot once in the chest with a Taser, which caused him to collapse.
“He wanted to change the world somehow through art,” his sister Offir Hernandez told the Herald. “We want answers. We only want to know what happened.”
“I just cant believe it,” said Rafael Lynch, whom the New Times described as Hernandez-Llach’s best friend. “I still have his hat and his board. They still smell like him. It’s crazy.”
“He was cutting edge,” Herb Kelly, one of Hernandez-Llach’s art instructors at Miami Beach High, told the Herald. “He had such awesome potential. To lose his life the way he did is tragic.”
Hernandez-Llach’s practice included painting, sculpture, street art, and photography. He had recently begun designing a line of skateboard decks.
Watch a video report on the death of Israel Hernandez-Llach:
— Benjamin Sutton
(Photo via the Miami Herald.)