Graffiti artist Delbert Rodriguez Gutierrez died on Tuesday night from injuries sustained when Miami Police Department Detective Michael Cadavid hit him with an unmarked police car. Gutierrez, 21, who was known for his distinctive “DEMZ” tag, had been in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital after sustaining a “severe brain injury,” the Miami Herald reported.
The fatal accident occurred after Cadavid spotted Gutierrez tagging a building in Miami’s Wynwood district around 2am on the morning of December 5. According to the police, the artist fled when he saw Cadavid’s light flash, running and hiding between two parked cars. As Cadavid drove around the corner in his unmarked police car, Gutierrez allegedly jumped out in front of it and was struck.
A photo allegedly showing the scene of the accident moments after it occurred has been circulating on social media. It shows a figure laying on the ground alongside an unmarked police car while two men stand nearby.
Following Gutierrez’s death, Miami PD has issued the following statement, which appeared in the Miami New Times:
On Friday, December 5, 2014, police officers assigned to an overnight security detail around the area of Art Basel observed a subject committing an act of vandalism by spray painting the façade of a business storefront not related to Art Basel. Upon seeing the police lights, the subject took off running and police followed. That subject ran around a street corner. Physical evidence shows, that when the police car turned the corner, the subject was in a low position near the pavement. The subject either fell or was attempting to hide the spray cans under a nearby car. Due to darkness, black clothing, and his low position near the pavement, the officers were unable to see him as they turned the corner. Evidence retrieved from the on board computer (black box) suggest that the vehicle was traveling less than 15 miles per hour at the point of impact which was to the lower left portion of the front bumper. Sadly, the suspect identified as Delbert Rodriguez Gutierrez succumbed to his head injuries and died last night. This was a tragic car accident which has left both families devastated. The Miami Police Department offers our condolences and prayers.
Another statement, from Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents Miami’s police officers, accused the Miami Herald of blaming the police for Gutierrez’s injuries and concluded that the artist was responsible for his own death. The full statement reads:
The Miami Fraternal Order of Police has been notified that Mr. Rodriguez has passed away. While this incident is being actively investigated, we look forward in its outcome. Behind every individual who wears a badge, there is a human being. Officer Cadavid has been in close contact with the FOP and continues to pray for Mr. Rodriguez’s family.
No matter how this incident transpired, the focus must be that a life was lost and we must keep his family in prayer throughout this difficult time. The Miami Herald posted a story that I went to the hospital to blame Mr. Rodriguez for his actions and then offered his mother dinner. It is unfortunate that the Miami Herald would twist a situation in order to sell newspapers by attempting to sensationalize a very sensitive time.
I did respond to the hospital on behalf of Officer Cadavid. There was a short discussion about the events that took place. However, I made it clear that wasn’t why I was there. Officer Cadavid wanted the family to know that he was praying for Delbert. His mother was adamant that the police were to blame. I did my best to comfort her and prayed over her son. I did offer to bring food for her and Delbert’s father since I am sure they didn’t want to leave their son’s bedside. Officer Cadavid was doing his job in enforcing the laws of our country. It is unfortunate that this young man lost his life due to his poor decision to run from the police.
Please continue to pray for the family.
The Miami Fraternal Order of Police hasn’t published that message on its website yet, but one of the most recent posts there is a message of support for Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.