The president of Miami's Police union is speaking out against a city commissioner's statement regarding the death of Israel Hernandez, the teen who died after a Miami Beach officer used a Taser on him. Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Javier Ortiz criticized the comments of Commissioner Francis Suarez, who responded in a statement.
The president of Miami's Police union is speaking out against a city commissioner's statement regarding the death of Israel Hernandez, the teen who died after a Miami Beach officer used a Taser on him.
The statement from Commissioner and mayoral candidate Francis Suarez, posted to his Facebook page Tuesday, calls Hernandez's death a "tragic event" and criticizes Mayor Tomas Regalado, without using his name.
"The current City of Miami Mayor has said that 'we will fight violence with violence,'" the message says. "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."
Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Javier Ortiz sent a letter Thursday criticizing Suarez for his comments.
"It is unfortunate that Commissioner Francis Suarez has chosen to utilize a sensitive situation in which someone has died on a paid political advertisement for Mayor to obtain votes," Ortiz said.
Ortiz told NBC 6, "He's not part of that jurisdiction. He has nothing to do with Miami Beach, and to bring up that incident when he's running for Mayor it has absolutely no bearing on what's occurring here in the City of Miami."
Miami Beach Police said officers found Hernandez, 18, graffiti tagging a building at 71st Street and Collins Avenue last Tuesday morning, and he took off on foot once the officer approached him.
Once the officers caught up to him at 71st Street and Harding Avenue, one of them used a Taser on the teen to help take him into custody, police said.
While in custody, Hernandez went into medical duress and was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital where he later died, police said. The incident and Hernandez's cause of death is still under investigation and the officer who used the Taser on the teen, Jorge Mercado, has been placed on administrative leave.
Hernandez was laid to rest Wednesday following a funeral in Miami Lakes.
"There is not a single law enforcement officer that would've wanted Israel Hernandez to die for committing a criminal act," Ortiz said in his statement. "However, no one can take responsibility for Israel's death except himself."
Ortiz also said Tasers actually save lives in some instances.
"Tasers in the City of Miami have saved many individuals who in the past would have been subjected to deadly force when we didn't have this great intermediate tool," he said. "What is even more surprising is Commissioner Suarez voted on July 11th in a commission meeting to purchase more Tasers for the Miami Police Department."
Suarez responded Thursday by saying that Ortiz's statement misses the point. Suarez said in a statement that he wasn't attacking police in Hernandez's tragic death, but expressing support for the teen 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," Suarez said. "Mayor Regalado should renounce that policy, and do so immediately."
Regalado told NBC 6 his messages were taken out of context, and said Suarez was trying to score political points out of the tragedy.
Ortiz said the FOP is standing by Mercado.
"The Miami Fraternal Order of Police supports Miami Beach Officer Jorge Mercado in his actions that evening," Ortiz said. "I'm sure Commissioner Suarez would feel different about the incident if it was his property that was vandalized by this criminal."