Oct 7, 2014
Miami New Times
Local activists hope to bring the 2013 death of teenager Israel "Reefa" Hernandez at the hands of Miami Beach Police to the attention of the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The Dream Defenders and the Community Justice Project of Florida Legal Services have filed a report with the UN in time for the committee's 53rd meeting next month in Switzerland alleging that Hernandez's death was the result of unchecked police brutality.
Reefa's death will be filed along with inquests into the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Activists are hopeful the UN might take up the issue, considering the Committee Against Torture has previously brought up concerns about racial profiling, police brutality, and the use of Tasers in the U.S., which the country must address at the meeting.
Eighteen-year-old Hernandez died August 6, 2013, after police spotted him and some friends leaving small graffiti tags on an abandoned McDonald's in Miami Beach. Police chased Hernandez and eventually hit him with a Taser.
Hernandez had an apparent seizure and was pronounced dead less than an hour later. The officers allegedly laughed and high-fived after shocking Hernandez, according to witnesses at the scene.
Later, two of Hernandez's friends were detained, and the report alleges they were intimidated for ten hours after witnessing the death of their friend and forced to remove their shirts while being kept in a cold room.
The report, which can be viewed here, notes the officer who deployed his Taser, Jorge Mercado, was never charged with any wrongdoing and remains on the job. It also notes that State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has not prosecuted a single police officer for use of deadly force in the past 25 years.
The report also lists the steps taken by Hernandez's friends, family, and local activists to try to find some sort of accountability for the boy's death, but so far all of those efforts have been in vain.
"The U.S. is quick to criticize countries like the Hernandez's native Colombia for their human rights abuses, yet allows for egregious police crimes to go wholly unpunished," Meena Jagannath of the Community Justice Project said in a statement. "This report is important to highlight the epidemic of police violence across the country and call for effective mechanisms to hold police accountable for using excessive force against people, particularly black and brown people."
A delegation from Miami will travel to Geneva for the meeting and will demand immediate suspension and investigation of Officer Mercado and a federal investigation into both the Miami Beach Police and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.