Miami Beach

Group rallies for graffiti artist who died after altercation with Miami Beach cops a year ago

 

Special to the Miami Herald

Jacqueline Hernandez-Llach hides her face behind a sign which reads “One year later . . still no justice for Reefa.”

Her green eyes can’t keep the tears from rolling down her face as she begins to speak Wednesday night at the vigil for her son, 18-year-old Israel Hernandez-Llach.

“I can’t believe that it’s possible for 12 months to have gone by without any new information,” she said. “Every day that goes by I feel more pain, I think that State Attorney Katharine Fernandez Rundle wants to let the situation fade away.”

Her son, a young artist known as “Reefa,” died Aug. 6, 2013, after an altercation with Miami Beach police. They caught Hernandez-Llach in the act of “tagging” or writing graffiti on the wall of a shuttered McDonald’s, chased him when he ran and shot him with a Taser. He later died.

In the months that have followed, the Hernandez-Llach family has held several events to protest Israel’s death and bring awareness to the case.

“Justice hasn’t been made,” said Offir Hernandez-Llach, Israel’s sister. “We’ve seen no changes and we’re not simply going to forget. We’re not going to give up because we don’t believe that my brother’s death was in vain.”

A few hundred people attended the vigil near the McDonald’s at Collins Avenue and 71st Street and a rally held at the nearby North Beach Bandshell. People held signs reading “One year and Rundle does nothing . . Where are you?”

They wore shirts displaying Reefa’s artwork and the hashtags #ripreefa and #justiceforreefa and listened while Offir recited poems written by her brother, whom she affectionately called “Lito.”

“We’re here to celebrate his life and spirit,” said Angel Ocasio, 18, who attended Miami Beach Senior High School with Hernandez-Llach.

“Reefa was a very positive person and taught me to carry positivity wherever I go so I know he’s looking down on us and smiling, but it’s important for us to be here and spread this message because otherwise the situation will never be fixed.”

Israel Hernandez Sr. also attended the vigil and rally to speak about his son.

“We need answers,” he said. “This happened to my son, but what’s next? Who could it happen to next?”

He wishes to have the Miami Beach Police Department’s use of Tasers reviewed.

“We, like everyone else, look forward to the State Attorney’s review and decision on the case,” said Dan Oates, Miami Beach Chief of Police. “Once that is completed, we will hold our internal review and our own investigation and take the necessary actions.”

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