Update: Delbert Rodriguez Gutierrez, AKA Demz, died of his injuries on Wednesday, December 10. A witness reached by New Times also disputes the police version of events. Danny Garcia, a friend who was with Demz that night, says there's no way he had time to disappear down a side street before police hit him.
Spend five minutes wandering through Wynwood this week and you'll spot more wall-tagging graffiti artists than regular pedestrians. Spray cans are everywhere during Basel week.
Which is why it's all the more perplexing that a 21-year-old tagger is now reportedly in critical condition after getting hit by a police car. The cops were chasing Delbert Rodriguez Gutierrez after spotting him tagging a building at NW Fifth Avenue and 24th Street, the Miami Herald reports.
Gutierrez, a Pembroke Pines resident, was spotted after midnight by an undercover unit working the neighborhood, Miami chief Manuel Orosa tells the Herald. After seeing the cops, he allegedly took off running and ducked between some parked cars.
A gang unit officer identified by the Herald as Michael Cadavid swung around the corner and hit Gutierrez as he emerged from the parked cars.
Gutierrez was taken to Jackson Memorial, where he remains in critical condition.
He apparently went by the street tag "Demz," and has uploaded videos of his work:
The incident is sure to raise serious questions about the Miami PD's efforts in the neighborhood. In 2013, Miami Beach Police faced widespread protest after a teenage graffiti artist was killed with a Taser after a short chase.
Orosa said the department had deployed the undercover unit to the area specifically during Art Basel to catch taggers, telling the Herald that "we have people that come into the city that think they're artists and start graffitying everything."
But Wynwood as a neighborhood owes its entire international reputation to street artists who have covered nearly every freestanding surface for blocks with murals and graffiti. Just take a look at the corner where Gutierrez was "caught" by officers last night:
Does it really make sense to chase a kid down a darkened street to protect those walls from a bit more spray paint?
A Miami Police spokesman declined to speak with Riptide about the case.