A medical examiner’s report, which was released Thursday, indicates that a police Taser was the likely cause in the death of a Miami teen last summer.
On August 6, 2013 Miami Beach police encountered 18 year old Israel “Reefa” Hernandez-Llach spray painting an abandoned North Beach McDonald’s. The teen fled from the officers, who gave chase. Upon catching up to the teen, Officer Jorge Mercado used his department issued Taser to attempt to subdue Hernandez-Llach, but incident left the teen seriously injured. He was transported to Mount Sinai Medical Center where he later died.
Hernandez-Llach’s family claims that the Officer Mercado acted inappropriately in using the Taser against Israel. But the Miami Beach PD contends that Mercado acted within company policies when he used his Taser against the teen, who he claims was lunging at him at the time of the confrontation.
In the medical examiner’s initial report, the cause of death has been listed as heart failure from the “energy device discharge,” a description which specifically avoids mentioning the Taser brand. This may be significant because, according to published reports, though stun guns are involved in many deaths annually, medical examiners across the country tend not to specifically cite them as a cause of death. In fact, according to the Miami Herald, a Taser has never been cited as an official cause of death in Florida.
The next step in the investigation will likely be an attempt to determine if Officer Mercado acted within company guidelines when confronting Hernandez-Llach. The family of the deceased teen has already obtained an attorney and filed notice that they intend to sue.