A veteran policeman tased 18-year-old Israel Hernandez-Llach in the chest, he died shortly thereafter. The Miami art community condemned the death of the widely known artist, who had won awards.
The Miami Herald said witnesses saw police chase the teen for ten minutes after they saw him painting on a wall. The witnesses said the officers slapping each other with high-fives as the teenager lay dying in the street.
Tasers and stun guns have become more widely used, especially by those who believe it lessens the risk of serious injury.
ABC reports: “Tasers, made by Taser International in Arizona, have been promoted as a non-lethal weapon that helps law enforcement officials subdue suspects. It’s legal for consumers to own and carry Tasers in 43 states, and they are not considered firearms by the government. But there have been dozens of individuals in the U.S. who have died after being tasered by the gun that delivers powerful jolts of electricity through the human body.”
The Guardian reports Dr Douglas Zipes, an eminent US cardiologist and emeritus professor at Indiana University has published a study on the danger of Tasers, especially when fired at the chest. He was hired by British police to study the danger.
“My admonition [to UK police] would be avoid the chest at all costs if you can.”
Most shots hit the chest, he said. “I think the information is overwhelming to support how a Taser shot to the chest can produce cardiac arrest.”
Electronic Village reports: … we now see too much taser abuse. First available to law enforcement in February 1998, now used by more than 14,200 law enforcement agencies in more than 40 countries. More than 406,000 taser guns have been sold since the product hit the market. It may be time for congressional hearings.”
Frank O’Hare, the victim’s art teacher, told the Herald: “In my 20 years as an art teacher, Israel was one of the most unique and talented students I have ever encountered.”
A crowd gathered Thursday night to remember him. They spray-painted “R.I.P. Israel’’ on the boarded-up building where he had painted his last tag — “Reefa’’ — and chanted “No Justice, no peace.’’
Said Wanda Brini, 18: “Art is not a crime.’’
Police said they were chasing him because he was committing the crime of vandalizing private property, and used the Taser to avoid a physical confrontation.
His friends told the Herald he was only five-foot-six and 150 pounds, and no threat to heavily armed police. One friend, Thiego Souza, who had served as a lookout and was detained by police, said they laughed and clapped about “how funny it was when his butt clenched when he got Tased and the Street Artist killed …”