(MIAMI) — A Florida teenager died after police shocked him with a Taser in an attempt to arrest him for drawing graffiti on an abandoned building.
Israel Hernandez, 18, died Aug. 6 in Miami Beach. The Miami Beach Police Department said in a statement that Hernandez started to flee when they caught him spray-painting a building, and that he didn’t stop running when they told him stop.
“During the foot pursuit, the subject encountered officers face to face … and ignored officers’ commands to stop. In order to affect his arrest, an officer deployed his conducted electrical weapon (Taser). The subject was placed into custody,” the police statement read.
Hernandez started to show signs of medical distress after he was taken into custody, according to the police department. The fire-rescue squad transported Hernandez to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, according to the Miami Herald.
The cause of death has not been determined, and autopsy and toxicology reports are still pending, police said.
Hernandez’s sister, Offir Hernandez, told ABC’s Miami affiliate WPLG that her brother was an artist who “lived and breathed” for his work.
He was one credit short of graduating from Miami Beach High School, according to WPLG, and after high school, his sister told the affiliate that his only plan was to paint. She described an exposition he once held where he sold his paintings for a dollar apiece. “He called it the dollar menu,” she told WPLG. “He sold it for just a dollar, just to spread it around.”
According to WPLG, Hernandez’s family members said they were not aware of any health problems that could have led to his death.
When the WPLG reporter asked Hernandez if she believed police had gone too far, Hernandez said, “My brother is dead isn’t he? Of course [the police] went too far. He didn’t come home yesterday. The police did.”
Tasers, also called conducted energy devices, are electroshock guns frequently used by police to stun their targets into compliance.
In 2012, the human rights organization Amnesty International, which has repeatedly called for heightened regulations on Tasers, reported that 500 people in the United States had died from these stun gun devices since 2001. Florida had the second-largest number of deaths from Tasers, according to Amnesty International.
Because Tasers are not firearms, they are not subject to regulation by the Bureau of of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
The Miami Beach police declined to say how often its officers used Tasers.
In 2012, the journal Circulation, which is published by the American Heart Association, released a study by Dr. Douglas Zipes concluding that electronic control device stimulation from the Tasers could induce cardiac arrest.
“Users should be judicious in how and when to use the ECD weapon, avoid chest shocks if possible, monitor the person after an ECD shock, and suspect this adverse response in any victim who loses consciousness,” the study stated.
The Miami Beach Police Department issued a statement saying, “The city of Miami Beach would like to extend their condolences to the family of Israel Hernandez.” It said Hernandez’s death was under investigation.
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