The family of a Florida teenager, who died earlier this month after the Miami Beach Police Department used a Taser on him, is suing the department saying it violated the 18-year-old’s civil rights, Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
Israel Hernandez-Llach, a graffiti artist popularly known as Reefa, died on Aug. 6 after police officials tried to stop him from fleeing with a Taser after they caught him spray-painting a fast food joint. His family filed a lawsuit on Tuesday naming the city and chief of police Ray Martinez as defendants, and has asked for more than $15,000 as compensation, according to the Miami Herald.
“We believe this investigation will illustrate that the City of Miami Beach and Miami Beach Police do not properly train or supervise their police officers in the use of force, including the use of a Taser weapon,” attorney Todd McPharlin said at a press conference on Tuesday, Miami Herald reported.
The lawsuit claims that police officials used excessive force to detain the youth and proper medical care was not given when he started showing signs of medical distress, the report said.
City officials have declined to comment on the lawsuit, but a press statement released by the Miami Beach Police Department after Hernandez-Llach’s death, cited by ABC News, said that the suspect was transported to Mount Sinai Hospital as soon as he showed signs of distress.
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TASER International (NASDAQ:TASR), the company that manufactures these stun guns, told Miami Herald, that the weapon provides a less-than-lethal option for restraining suspects. The company added that it advices officers to avoid using the weapon on the chest of suspects, as was done in Hernandez-Llach’s case, because it could trigger a cardiac arrest.
“It’s a controversial subject anytime a tragic death occurs,” a company spokesman told the Miami Herald. “I’m a parent, I feel for his parents . . . but we have to wait for the science and the facts to come out.”
The cause of Hernandez-Llach’s death is still under investigation and reports indicate that toxicology reports could take a few more weeks.
Hernandez-Llach’s death has rekindled the debate about the use of stun guns by law enforcement officers to detain suspects. According to a 2012 report by human rights organizations Amnesty International, since 2001, about 500 people have died from such devices, and Florida has the second-largest number of deaths from Tasers after California.
“What is most disturbing about the police use of Tasers is that the majority of those who later died were not a serious threat when they were shocked by police," Susan Lee, Americas program director at Amnesty International, said in a press statement at the time.