Israel "Reefa" Hernandez Died From Tasering, Not Drugs Or Excited Delirium

Seven months after Israel "Reefa" Hernandez was killed by Miami Beach cops, authorities finally announced what his family has claimed all along: that the teen died from being Tasered.

The findings, which were disclosed yesterday by State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, contradict both news reports and claims by Taser that its device isn't lethal.

"We've been saying it for seven months. It's nothing new," said Reefa's father, Israel Hernandez Sr. "My son didn't deserve the death penalty."

See also: Teenager Israel Hernandez Dies After Miami Beach Cops Catch Him Tagging, Taser Him

Back in September, seven weeks after New Times broke the story of Hernandez's death, the Miami Herald published an article suggesting the teen had died of "excited delirium," a controversial diagnosis often linked to mental disease or hard drug use.

Hernandez had a body temperature "well over 102 degrees over an hour after [he was] pronounced dead, according to multiple law enforcement sources," the Herald reported. "An overheated body is common among people who have been ruled as having died of excited delirium."

See also: Is excited delirium killing coked-up, stun-gunned Miamians?

The Herald also quoted Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera as saying: "The Taser doesn't kill these people... It's the drugs they take, it takes their body into a state that's far greater than what their body can tolerate."

But yesterday's announcement revealed that Reefa didn't die from drugs or excited delirium. Rather, he died from heart failure caused by "energy device discharge." (Read: "Taser." Miami Beach Police use a Taser X26.)

The report -- which has yet to be released -- also revealed that Hernandez's death was "accidental." But that's not a surprise. No one has claimed that cops intentionally killed the kid.

Instead, Hernandez's friends and family have said police used excessive force by stun-gunning the scrawny skateboarder instead of simply subduing him.

"Our reaction is that these officers used what turned out to be deadly force for what everybody understands was a minor property offense," Todd McPharlin, the family's lawyer, told the Herald.

The family has also pointed out that Reefa was Tasered in the chest, a location the company itself has suggested cops avoid targeting. But Miami Beach Police only advises cops not to intentionally Taser subjects in the "eyes, groin or face of a subject."

See also: Israel Hernandez Killing: Here Is Miami Beach Police's Policy on Tasering People

"TASER International is always concerned when a death tragically occurs in custody and mourns the loss of a life," the company told the Herald. "We do not comment, however, on an unfortunate death without having been provided any factual documentation by the medical examiner or the opportunity to review the autopsy report."

The determination that a Taser caused the death of an otherwise healthy teen has huge implications here in Florida, where three other young men have died recently after being shot with the device.

On February 5, 21-year-old barber Willie Sams died after Miami-Dade Police used a Taser on him during an altercation. The 21-year-old was in town visiting family from Georgia.

Three weeks later, two more men died on the same day following use of the device.

On February 27, 37-year-old Maykel Antonio Barrera died after MDPD shot him with a Taser. Hours later, backyard boxer Treon Johnson, 27, died after he was shocked by Hialeah Police.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.