Jorge Mercado, one of the police officers involved in the fatal tasing of 18-year-old graffiti artist Israel Hernandez-Llach, has been placed on paid leave, anonymous law enforcement sources told the Miami Herald.
Police say that Hernandez-Llach was painting the wall of an abandoned McDonalds around 5 a.m. Tuesday when officers confronted him. Hernandez-Llach fled on foot, cops say. When he didn't stop, Mercado allegedly shocked him in the chest with his taser gun, causing him to collapse, the Herald reported.
The teen was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead shortly afterwards. The medical examiner's office was still working to determine the cause of death as of Thursday evening.
The case is currently under internal investigation by Miami Beach Police, Reuters reported. Friends and family are calling for an independent investigation into the teen's death. Officer Thomas Lincoln, Officer Cormilus Lattimore and Sergeant Rey Aguilar are also being investigated in addition to Mercado, according to CBS Miami.
"There is no justification for this kind of action for a second-degree misdemeanor," Jason W. Kreiss, a lawyer representing Hernandez-Llach's family, told Reuters.
Grafitti is typically a misdemeanor in Florida if the damage to the property is less than $1,000.
According to the Miami Beach Police's standard operating procedure for the use of force, tasers may be used when "the subject is not in the physical control of the officer yet poses a threat," or when "the officer, based on objective reasonableness, perceives an imminent threat of physical force against himself, other persons, property or self-inflicted injury."
It is also standard procedure to relieve an officer involved in a deadly force incident of duty for a minimum of 72 hours, "without loss of pay or benefits pending the results of the investigation."
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