Family and friends gathered once more among a crowd of hundreds asking for justice for Israel Hernandez, a Miami Beach teen who died after being stunned by a police Taser Tuesday.
The first of two Saturday vigils was held at 71st Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach where 18-year-old Hernandez was confronted by police for spray painting graffiti on an abandoned storefront.
"We as a family are extremely grateful for all the support you're giving us and giving my brother," sister Offir Hernandez said. "We thank you from the bottom of our hearts that you come here today."
After a moment of silence, the Hernandez family left, but many remained carrying signs, holding flowers and writing messages in memory of the teen.
His girlfriend Alexandria spoke about their relationship, recalling, among other moments, the time they danced on a rooftop to the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" because he wanted to give her the prom she never had.
"I have a million question running through my head right now and I could scream, I could cry, I could shout, but at the end of the day he's gone. I can't tell you how hard that is," she said.
Hernandez, an artist and skateboarder, died an hour after Miami Beach Police used a Taser to stop him when he allegedly ran away from officers.
"I understand that there's laws and that maybe you shouldn't have been doing that, but the way he died, there's just no explanation for that and there's no reason that should have happened," friend Veronica Greulach said.
Witnesses and police said that Hernandez ran towards Harding Avenue, ducking corners and hopping a fence along the way. Miami Beach officials said he had several opportunities to give himself up.
The police department is conducting its own investigation into the death and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will review the case, along with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office after the Hernandez family pressed for an independent investigation.
Meanwhile, the officer who used the Taser on the teen, Jorge Mercado, has been placed on administrative leave.
"We see this as a first step in getting the answers that the Hernandez family needs and deserves," said Todd McPharlin, attorney for the Hernandez family.
A second vigil will be held Saturday at 7 p.m. at 004 Connec Graffiti in Wynwood.
More Local Stories:
- Couponer Gives Away Food to SoFla Shelters
- 178 Children Become U.S. Citizens in Ceremony in Hialeah
- Family Still Seeking Answers in Daughter's Overtown Death