One Year Later, Reefa Supporters Rally on Miami Beach and Demand Answers

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Instagram via MIA Skateshop
More than 200 people gathered at the corner of 71st Street and Collins Avenue last night with skateboards, armbands, and signs scrawled with the message "#JusticeForReefa."

The corner is the same spot where one year earlier, 18-year-old Israel "Reefa" Hernandez died after a Miami Beach Police officer shot him in the chest with a Taser following a foot chase that began when he was caught tagging the walls of a nearby abandoned McDonald's with graffiti. Hernandez's family, friends, and supporters celebrated the teen's life last night but said they're still waiting for justice.

"He was an inspiration to all of us," said Daniel Montes, a fellow skater and former classmate of Hernandez's. "Whether you knew him or not, so many people are out here because they've heard just what an amazing spirit he was."

Supporters at the rally, led by his immediate family dressed in black, wore shirts with #JusticeForReefa and the phrase "Art is not a crime" on the front. Others arrived with their skateboards in hand as a sign of solidarity to their fellow skateboarder and artist.

"We come in peace and are just looking for justice," said Jorge Estomba, who led the vigil.

The story of Hernandez's death, which was first reported by New Times, has evolved over the past year as his family continues to seek answers. In March, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that his cause of death was "sudden cardiac arrest" as a result of shock from an "energy device discharge." That report came after months of speculation by officials that Hernandez's demise could have been drug-related.

On May 28, Offir Hernandez, Reefa's sister, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Miami Beach. Miami Beach PD and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have not yet finished their own investigations of Hernandez's death, but in the meantime, Jorge Mercado, the officer who hit Hernandez with the Taser, has not been charged with his death and remains on active duty.

Last night's rally featured musical performances from his friends, and Offir read some of Reefa's poetry. His art was also on display. Though his relatives say they have no plans to sell his work, Reefa's art will soon be featured in exhibits in Spain, France, England, and his native Colombia.

"He wasn't just some simple street artist vandalizing," Estomba said. "His art has so much value."

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Ed Ochoa
Ed Ochoa

There use to be a time when kids that went around the neighborhood spray painting graffiti and running away from cops were called delinquents and hoodlums, now according to this article on what the people are saying they are an inspiration and an artist, man times have changed.

DRAKEMALLARD.0 topcommenter

You know what I see when I look at Israel Hernandez America's got a sad future ahead of it.

He was engaged in defacing someone's property, and knew it, and ran His friends explained that they were using drugs together before they went out to vandalize.His relatives seem to forget that he was caught defacing private property. He was caught commiting a criminal act.I can only assume these people believe that vandalizing property and disobeying the police is an acceptable way of life. They continue this protest because they can't understand that most of society thinks his behavior is unacceptable and against the law.Teenager painting on walls is grounds for shots fired and or electrocution..this my friends is why we rate last in education. Just plain dumb.

This is not art it is Criminal Damage to property and this little
criminal decided to fight the law and as the song goes the law won.
People are cheering for this persons deviant behavior. Our society is
circling the drain of it's own destruction. It's called vandalism. Then
fleeing and alluding. If you want to express yourself do it on a canvas
or your mothers house. So let me get this straight, if the graffiti kid
complied, didn't run away, and listed to the police officers request to
stop, he would be alive today. Sounds to me if you comply, do as the
police say, take the arrest and possibly fight your charges in court,
you will more than likely come out of this situation without being tased

These people need to understand this behavior may be acceptable in their native country, but it's NOT acceptable in the US. They need to CHANGE their thought process to comply with the country they sought so diligently to uproot their entire life to move here.He was and is a criminal and was treated that way.i wish everyone would take turns spraying graffiti on their house and vehicles. after years of constantly cleaning off and removing the paint, maybe they'll understand what their twerp criminal did was wrong.

miamitrev2 topcommenter

Sabrina  they let you write for the MNT without knowing the difference between unoccupied and abandoned?

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