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This is a two-week issue. The next Militant will be mailed out on Aug. 29.
Outrage in Fla. meets
cop killing for graffiti
In Miami Beach Aug. 10 against killing of 18-year-old Israel Hernández-Llach by cops.
BY NAOMI CRAINE
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — “Israel did not deserve this,” said Gina Stephenson at a rally here Aug. 10 to protest the cop killing of Israel Hernández-Llach. “I’ve known Israel since seventh grade, and he was a great person,” she said. “Art is not a crime.”
Hernández, 18, was an artist and photographer who had some of his work exhibited locally. On the morning of Aug. 6, he was spray-painting his graffiti tag “Reefa” on an abandoned McDonald’s when the Miami Beach cops began to chase him. After being cornered a couple blocks away Officer Jorge Mercado shot Hernández with a Taser in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly thereafter.
The police “were all clapping and doing high-fives all over his body,” 19-year-old Thiago Souza, who caught up with Hernández right after he was hit with the stun gun, told the Miami Herald Aug. 9. “It was almost as if they were proud of what they did.”
Officer Mercado has been placed on paid leave.
The store where Hernández had been spray-painting has been turned into a memorial, covered with photos, graffiti tags, messages and flowers. It has been the site of protests and a steady stream of friends and strangers paying their respects.
On the evening of Aug. 9 Savannah Diaz, a college student who went to high school with Hernández, told the Militant he had been threatened by the cops before. In addition to protesting, she said, his friends “are trying to raise money to help the family with the funeral.”
Veronica Greulach, another former classmate, had come to lay flowers and expressed her outrage at the police action. “You’re not supposed to tase someone in the chest!” she said.
Tasers are touted by the police as “nonlethal.” But Amnesty International has documented more than 500 deaths in the last 12 years of people who have been hit by the weapons, which deliver 50,000 volts of electricity. Since 2009 the manufacturer has recommended they not be fired at the chest.
Several hundred people turned out for the rally Aug. 10. Offir Hernández, Israel’s sister, thanked those present on behalf of the family, who moved to Miami from Colombia several years ago. “We want clarity on what happened,” she said.
The family’s lawyer, Todd McPharlin, said the family is calling for an independent investigation. “Yesterday we learned the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be getting involved into that investigation,” he told rally participants. “We see that as a first step.”
The parents of two other men who died after being fired upon by a Taser and beaten by local cops took part in the rally. The mother of Camilo Guzman told the rally about her son’s death at the hands of North Miami police in January 2012.
George Salgado, 21, “was hog-tied, beaten, and tasered” by West Miami police in April 2012, his father, also named George Salgado, told the Militant. “We still haven’t even been given the autopsy report. They claim it’s still under investigation.”
“Hopefully by doing this we’ll stop someone else from going through this pain,” Salgado said, referring to the protests.
Hernández’s death is the latest of many killings by police in the Miami area that have sparked outrage and drawn national attention.
On Memorial Day weekend in 2011, Miami Beach police officers fired more than 100 shots at a vehicle they said had been driving erratically — well after it had come to a full stop. The driver, Raymond Herisse, was killed and four bystanders seriously injured. More than two years later, the shooting is still “under investigation.”
Later the same summer another Miami Beach cop who was drinking on the job ran over two people on the beach while joy-riding in a cop all-terrain-vehicle.
In July the U.S. Justice Department released a report on its investigation of 33 shootings by the Miami Police Department between 2008 and 2011. It said the department “engages in a pattern or practice of excessive use of force with respect to firearm discharges.”
Meanwhile, in Warrington, in northern Florida, two Escambia County sheriff deputies were put on paid leave after they shot a 60-year-old Black man in his own driveway July 28. Roy Middleton was getting a pack of cigarettes out of the car, and someone called 911 to report a possible robbery. The police opened fire, shattering Middleton’s leg. “It was like a firing squad,” Middleton told the Pensacola News Journal from his hospital bed. “Bullets were flying everywhere.”
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