One year ago today, Miami Beach cops caught a tall, skinny teenager spray-painting the side of an abandoned McDonald's. A phalanx of police officers chased the curly-haired kid for seven minutes: Israel "Reefa" Hernandez clambered over fences and atop cars until he finally found himself cornered in front of a bank. That's when Officer Jorge Mercado pulled out his Taser and shot the 18-year-old in the chest.
What should have been a misdemeanor arrest went awry moments later, however, when Hernandez suddenly stopped breathing. The tragic story of Reefa's death -- first reported by New Times -- has taken twists and turns over the past 12 months. There have been protests, investigations, and, most recently, a lawsuit.
Tonight, Reefa's friends and family members will gather at the McDonald's where it all began to remember the graffiti artist and demand answers about his death.
See also: Israel Hernandez: Tasered to Death
Reefa's death was met with outrage. His friends at the scene claimed cops had high-fived one another after the arrest, effectively ignoring the dying teen.
Hernandez's family, meanwhile, argued that the handsome artist never should have been hunted down for something as trivial as tagging an abandoned building.
Miami Beach Police put Mercado on leave but quickly returned him to duty, stating that the officer had properly followed procedures and done nothing wrong.
But the officer came under question again when New Times revealed Mercado had also been accused of needlessly Tasering others, including an Army veteran.
Reefa's family organized rallies to demand answers about the incident, and on March 6 -- seven months to the day after his death -- State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle admitted the teen had, in fact, been Tasered to death.
Five months later, Reefa's autopsy results still haven't been released. Also pending are investigations by Miami Beach PD and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
On May 28, Offir Hernandez filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Miami Beach over her brother's death.
Tonight, she and her family will join supporters at the abandoned McDonald's at 71st Street and Collins Avenue to remember Reefa. The vigil begins at 6 p.m.
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