The police Taser incident that killed a Miami teen led to an officer being placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday while an investigation continues.
Miami Beach police officer Jorge Mercado, a 13-year veteran of the force, fired a stun-gun at Israel Hernandez-Llach, striking him in the chest and killing him.
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The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office is investigating Mercado. Hernandez-Llach's family is calling for an additional investigation by an outside law enforcement agency.
A Miami Beach Police representative released a statement saying officers involved in the incident acted appropriately and within the guidelines of the law.
Hernandez-Llach was confronted by police about 5 a.m. while allegedly spray painting graffiti on an abandoned building, and he ran away from them. Officers followed him in a foot chase, between buildings and up and down alleys, according to The Miami Herald.
Eventually, Hernandez-Llach was cornered between buildings with nowhere to escape.
When he began charging at officers, Mercado reportedly Tasered him. They called paramedics soon after, as he showed signs of "medical distress." Emergency personnel transported the teen to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 6:15 a.m.
According to his internal affairs record obtained by The Miami Herald, Mercado has had six complaints filed against him since he was hired in 2000. The complaints range from excessive force and battery to violating the department’s code for courtesy and respect. However, all the complaints were either unsubstantiated or exonerated except for one: an allegation involving drug testing procedures in January 2011. He was suspended 160 hours for that violation.
An autopsy conducted Wednesday was inconclusive, and toxicology tests are still pending, Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez told the Miami Herald.
Taser is the brand name for a hand-held weapon that delivers a jolt of electricity to disrupt muscle control and subdue the fleeing of a potentially dangerous suspect. Though considered nonlethal weapons, Tasers sometimes lead to deaths, most of the time when the victim has pre-existing health issues or has ingested powerful drugs.
The teen's artwork has been exhibited locally and recognized by Florida U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Family and friends of Hernandez-Llach held a demonstration and a memorial for the teen Thursday near the scene where he died at 71st Street and Collins Avenue.
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