Meet “Reefa”, the New Trayvon Martin

by Zenster on August 11, 2013

in crime, Florida, Zenster (team member)

Stun-gun death of Miami Beach artist to get independent review

MIAMI (Reuters) – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed in an interview on Friday that it would conduct an independent review of the death of an 18-year-old graffiti artist who died after being electroshocked by a Taser during a police chase in Miami Beach.

Israel Hernandez-Llach died early on Tuesday morning after police caught him spray-painting the wall of a former McDonald’s restaurant.

Readers must wade through both the headline and the article’s first two paragraphs before there is any hint that this “artist” was really an active vandal. Of course, leave it to the Latin Times to ratchet up the tension with their false reporting.

Israel Hernandez-Llach, 18, Fatally Shot By Miami Police Official For Graffiti Art

Despite closing with sympathetic blather about how, “If a cop wouldn’t have pulled his Glock and aimed at center mass, then he had no business pulling his Taser either”, the plainer language of Simple Justice provides a degree of less biased information:

But according to Miami Police Chief Ray Martinez:

Hernández-Llach was confronted by officers about 5 a.m. as he was vandalizing private property, and he fled, leading officers on a foot chase. It ended at 71st and Harding when he was cornered by police and ran toward the officers, ignoring commands to stop.

Whether one views graffiti as an urban art form or criminal vandalism tends to color one’s view of what happened next. It shouldn’t. Regardless of the artistic merit of graffiti, it has two insurmountable counterpoints: first, it’s illegal. Second, the “canvas” is someone else’s property. And it’s not like Hernández-Llach didn’t appreciate either point, as he did his tagging in the wee hours of the morning and had a lookout to warn him. He took his chances in the name of his “art.”

If he wanted to make the argument that tagging was an art form that shouldn’t be criminalized, then he should have been prepared to be caught and argued the merit of his actions. Instead, he fled. That ends the debate. If Hernández-Llach was unwilling to take the weight for what he was doing, then he cannot avail himself of the argument that what he was doing should not be a crime. [emphasis added]

As one contributor to the comments at NPR’s “Here and Now” column inquired:

Why “teen graffiti artist” in the headline and not “adult vandal”?

Obviously, no one really wants to admit that Hernandez-Llach was a multiple offender whose repeated vandalism likely resulted in many thousands of dollars in property damage. His own friend testified to the habitual nature of Reefa’s criminal activity.

He did it a lot,” said Hernandez-Llach’s friend Rafael Lynch, referring to his [Hernandez-Llach’s] graffiti. “He wasn’t a bad person at all; the cops didn’t like him or what he looked like,” he added, saying his friend was also an avid skateboarder. [emphasis added]

Of course, trust that Reuters wouldn’t allow any nettlesome facts to interfere with their sympathetic portrayal of the vandal.

Martinez said Hernandez-Llach fled after being seen “vandalizing private property” shortly before dawn on Tuesday.

The artist’s father, Israel Hernandez-Bandera, called his son’s death “an act of barbarism” and an “assassination of a young artist and photographer.”

Friends of Hernandez-Llach who witnessed the police chase accused officers of making jokes after using the Taser.

“I saw four or five cops converge on him and hit him up against the wall,” said Felix Fernandez, 18.
He said he was standing nearby acting as a lookout for Hernandez-Llach and tried to warn him when he heard police sirens approaching.
[emphasis added]

The fact that Reefa had employed Felix Fernandez as a “lookout” demonstrates full cognizance regarding the illegal nature of his activities. That he fled the scene to avoid apprehension further reinforces a justifiable perception of both guilt and culpability.

This is not some angelic little photographer—sculptor—skateboarder. Nor was it the “assassination of a young artist and photographer”, no matter what Reefa’s father would like to think. Had this dedicated unlicensed exterior redecorator abstained from his illegal activities, there is little doubt that he would not be at room temperature right now. Regardless of whether or not he had any prior arrests on record, Reefa was a repeat offender that most likely had wasted vast amounts of law enforcement time by diverting them from attending to more serious crimes. That alone could have contributed to a degree of totally understandable rage amongst the arresting officers.

Most important of all is to remember this pattern of journalists downplaying criminal behavior in favor of provoking public—especially minority—rage over the death of someone committing a crime. Media adulation of Ashtrayvon Martin is just the iceberg’s tip in terms of this consistent de-emphasis of the reasonable expectation that law-abiding citizens and property owners rightfully have with respect to not being at the mercy of every unprincipled junior thug or punk gangster that comes their way.

PTG

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 PeterC August 11, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Tagging other people’s property is not art, it is vandalism. The little puke deserved what he got.

2 Uncle Vladdi August 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Since his friend isn’t recorded as disputing his running at (threatening) the cops, I’m pretty sure they had the right to Taser him for it. Of course, maybe his friend just couldn’t keep up with his escape run, and so didn’t witness the final moments, either. The papers’ assertions that cops shouldn’t be allowed to tase anyone they wouldn’t shoot, is nonsense; Tasers only exist because they are far less lethal than being shot full of holes.

As for his deserving to die for painting the walls of abandoned buildings, that’s nonsense, but he did take his chances and risked either tripping over his own feet or suffering an unusual (for a teenager in good health) heart attack from being tased by the cops. They should check that the voltage etc was correctly engaged on the Taser and, if not, then his parents might have a chance in a lawsuit against the Taser company, but not against the cops, who were perfectly justified using it in their job.

[Spelling edits for clarity added by Zenster on 08-12-2013]

3 Zenster August 12, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Uncle Vladdi: The papers’ assertions that cops shouldn’t be allowed to tase anyone they wouldn’t shoot, is nonsense; Tasers only exist because they are far less lethal than being shot full of holes.

Great comment overall, Uncle Vladdi. You are absolutely correct regarding how the central reason why Tasers are now commonplace tools for modern law enforcement is that they provide officers with an alternative to lethal force. Clearly, the Latin Times was unhappy about making that sort of exculpating distinction and, instead, did their best to fan the flames of mob violence with their headline; “Israel Hernandez-Llach, 18, Fatally Shot By Miami Police Official For Graffiti Art“. [emphasis added]

They should check that the voltage etc was correctly engaged on the Taser and, if not, then his parents might have a chance in a lawsuit against the Taser company, but not against the cops, who were perfectly justified using it in their job.

This is another excellent distinction. Had Hernandez-Llach been apprehended at the crime scene, there might be some argument that excessive force was used. However, Reefa made an attempt to elude arrest and his flight lends credence to the possibility that, once surrounded, he might have repeated his attempt to escape apprehension. Per, what I am sure are departmental guidelines, the arresting officers avoided drawing their firearms and, instead, employed non-lethal means of subduing someone who was entering into the twelve foot radius that represents the sphere wherein a potential assailant can reach an officer before they can draw down.

Hernandez-Llach entered that sphere and was appropriately tased for his troubles. As noted, there was no reasonable expectation that the force applied was excessive for the suspect involved. This was not some geriatric in a wheelchair. Instead, it was a young adult without any conspicuous infirmities and someone that had just led his pursuers on a vigorous foot chase. All of these signs were indicative of an ability for the suspect to take the crappie flop.

4 Uncle Vladdi August 12, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Hi Zenster,

Thanks for editing my post; there isn’t an edit button here, so I’m glad someone could do it. But you missed changing “feet of suffering” into “feet or suffering” so I still look like somewhat of a tard. (Mea tarda LOL)!

And – “Crappie Flop!”? LOVE IT!

😉

5 Zenster August 13, 2013 at 12:00 am

Uncle Vladdi: Thanks for editing my post; there isn’t an edit button here, so I’m glad someone could do it. But you missed changing “feet of suffering” into “feet or suffering”…

Viola!

Incidentally, your blog is on the money.

6 Uncle Vladdi August 13, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Multumesc, Domnule!

And: DITTO!

😉

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