The girlfriend of the Miami Beach teen who died after being stunned by a police Taser said Israel Hernandez was youthful, funny and never said a bad thing about anyone. NBC 6's Adam Kuperstein has the story.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will review the case of Israel Hernandez, the Miami Beach teen who died in police custody after an officer used a Taser on him, officials said Friday.
The Hernandez family pressed for an independent investigation. Police Chief Raymond Martinez agrees, and explained that for that reason, the FDLE will review the investigation and findings of the Miami Beach Police Department in Hernandez's death.
"We want to make sure we are transparent. Not only to reassure the family, but to reassure the public," Martinez said. "We are going to do a complete and thorough investigation."
The City of Miami Beach said it asked the state agency to do the review. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is also conducting a review.
Following a vigil in tribute to Hernandez where mourners turned aggressive against Miami Beach Police officers Thursday evening, Martinez told NBC 6 he is aware of the emotion the teen's death in police custody has roused.
"It is a tragic event, and we all have questions of why he died," Martinez said.
Hernandez, 18, was spotted by officers spray painting graffiti on an abandoned storefront at 71st Street and Collins Avenue just after 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Witnesses and police said that when officers moved in, Hernandez ran towards Harding Avenue, ducking corners and hopping a fence along the way.
"You know, several times during that chase where he had the opportunity to give himself up, and he didn't," the chief explained.
In trying to arrest the Miami Beach Senior High School student, Martinez said Officer Jorge Mercado used a Taser on the teen in his chest area. Within one hour, Hernandez died. Mercado was placed on administrative leave.
Martinez said all six officers who were there the day Hernandez died have been questioned, as have other witnesses. Their accounts, along with the teen's autopsy and toxicology results, will be included in the pending death investigation.
On Friday, Mercado's police record and those of the officers involved were released. Mercado’s record in his 13 years in the department includes exoneration for a battery complaint, and an excessive force claim that was withdrawn.
Police also revealed that Hernandez was on their radar for past vandalism offenses and fleeing officers, but that was not known as Tuesday’s incident occurred.
"We had an encounter with him before, but he had run and eluded police," Martinez said.
The use of Tasers is considered non-lethal force, and Martinez pointed out past deaths linked to the devices involved persons who were stunned who had used drugs or had pre-existing medical conditions.
Within a few weeks, Hernandez's autopsy and toxicology results are expected to be released, along with an official cause of death.
Attorneys for the Hernandez family released a statement following the announcement of the FDLE review.
"The relatives of Israel, as well as everyone who knew and loved him, are anxious to get to the bottom of what happened. We hope that FDLE executes a just and independent investigation in this case," they said in Spanish.
Hernandez's girlfriend Alexandra described the teen as a joyful person, who never said a bad thing about anybody.
"I can play it over a thousand times in my head -- think what could have gone differently, whose fault is it, what went wrong -- but at the end of the day none of those questions and none of these things that are heavy on a lot of people's mind's right now is going to bring back Israel," she said.
Two rallies are scheduled Saturday for Hernandez. The first will be at 1 p.m. at 71st Street and Collins Avenue. Another begins at 7 p.m. at 004 Connec Graffiti in Wynwood.