Family members of a teenager who died after being shocked by Miami Beach police say he was an artist who wanted to change the world through art. Now they're asking for an independent investigation to learn about the events that led to Israel Hernandez-Llach's death early Tuesday.
Police said officers confronted the teen, who had recently turned 18, when they found him spray-painting a shuttered fast-food building about 5 a.m. Tuesday. Hernandez-Llach - a graffiti artist known as "Reefa" ran, leading officers on a foot chase through Miami Beach, police said.
Chief Ray Martinez said the teen ignored orders to stop.
"The officers were forced to use the Taser to avoid a physical incident," he said.
Hernandez-Llach was shot once in the chest, and collapsed. Martinez said the officers noticed signs of distress and the teen was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
The Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/19R6gAU ) reports the death is under investigation by the city and the state attorney's office. The newspaper also reports that the officer, Jorge Mercado, a 13-year veteran of the force, has been placed on paid administrative leave in connection with the shooting.
"The city of Miami Beach would like to extend their condolences to the family of Israel Hernandez," Martinez said.
The teen's 21-year-old sister, Offir Hernandez said the family just wants answers. The family's attorney, Tod McPharlin, said they would like to have an independent investigation.
On Wednesday, the family gathered to remember the teen.
"He wanted to change the world somehow through art," his sister said.
Herb Kelly, one of the teen's art teachers at Miami Beach High School, said "it was an honor to work with him."
Kelly said a number of the teen's pieces were displayed at various galleries and museums in the area.
"He was cutting edge," Kelly said. "He had such awesome potential. To lose his life the way he did is tragic."
Eleanor West said Hernandez-Llach was her best friend. She said he came to the United States from Colombia when he was 13 or 14 and loved Miami.
West told The Herald the teen had recently launched a line of skateboards that he hoped to market under the name "Tropical." She said he was completing an online course to earn his high school diploma.
"His art was everything to him," she said.