Opinion

Miami Police Kill 18-Year-Old Street Artist

The skateshop where Hernández-Llach worked posted this photo of him after his death.

Israel Hernández-Llach was tagging a shuttered McDonald’s in Miami Beach when he was approached by police and fled. It’s unclear exactly how the situation unfolded from there, but Hernández-Llach was soon dead, the result of a police tasering. The officers claimed that they shocked their victim, the 541st person to be killed by a Taser since the weapons were introduced in 2001, to “avoid a physical incident.”

Widespread coverage of the teen’s death cites Miami Beach police chief Ray Martinez’s public statement on the matter, which included condolences to the Hernández-Llach family. It’s a tawdry bookend to the quiet, thoughtful artist and photographer’s life, one cut short by a violent and hysterical culture of urban policing. It’s a crime catalyzed by an unhinged reaction to graffiti and enabled by a lethal weapon whose use by law enforcement has become nightmarishly casual.

According to the Miami Herald, his family has retained an attorney and plans to seeks legal recourse for their son’s wrongful death. For it’s own part, the American Civil Liberties Union has issued a statement, denouncing the senseless death of “A teenager with a promising future … His apparent crime: graffiti.”

The ACLU document continues: “This is the latest in a long, tragic series of incidents in which the Miami Beach Police Department appears to have used excessive, disproportionate or lethal force. Unfortunately, the Miami Beach Police also have a troubling track record of a lack of transparency after such incidents.”

A troubling track record, to be sure — this is just the flavor of the week: An 18-year old has half a million volts of electricity pumped into his flesh for putting unauthorized pigment on a wall. And those responsible, the public employees whose salaries his now-lifeless body’s labor once contributed to, then allegedly stood around high-fiving each other like misbegotten medalists in some grotesque bloodsport. Happy Friday.

Editor’s note: This article originally stated, incorrectly, that Hernández-Llach was 17. He was 18. It has been corrected.

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