Reefa Candlelight Vigil: On Slain Teen's 19th Birthday, Friends and Family Demand Justice
Yesterday should have been a celebration for this family of Colombian immigrants. It should have been a night filled with music and art and laughter. It should have been Israel "Reefa" Hernandez's 19th birthday.
Morgan Coleman Israel's sister, Ofir, at the vigil
Instead, it was yet another milestone along the long path of mourning the slain teenager, who was fatally Tased by Miami Beach Police in the early hours of August 6.
Last night, friends, family members, and activists gathered at the spot where Hernandez died to remember him and demand justice.
Scores of supporters crowded the sidewalk at 71st Street and Collins to pay tribute to the teenage artist and skateboarder. Dressed in black and holding small candles aloft, they were buffeted by strong winds blowing off the Atlantic Ocean two blocks away.
As at a rally last month on Lincoln Road, Hernandez's family renewed its calls for justice over the tragic killing.
Morgan Coleman Israel's sister and mother, dressed in black
The Hernandezes have filed a lawsuit against Miami Beach Police, accusing Officer Jorge Mercado of using excessive force when he Tasered Israel once in the chest following a seven minute foot chase around North Beach.
Police say the incident wasn't the first time they had caught Hernandez spray painting buildings in the area. Law enforcement officials have also suggested that Hernandez was on hard drugs at the time of his death -- an accusation his family has strenuously denied.
The State Attorney's Office has yet to release an autopsy on Israel Hernandez.