Night life

Israel Herandez Park? Push to Name New Miami Beach Park After Fatally Tasered Teen

A new three-acre Miami Beach park slated to open sometime in the new year may be poised to adopt the namesake of Israel Hernandez-Llach, a Hispanic teenager who was fatally Tasered by Miami Beach police in the summer of 2013. The park, located in the 500-700 blocks of Alton Road, is seven miles south from where Hernandez was killed on Harding Avenue in North Beach.

Anyone with internet access can cast a vote for one of five preselected names — Canopy Park, Gateway Park, South Shore Park, Sunset Park, and Unity Park — or, alternatively, submit a write-in nomination. Votes and write-in nominations can be submitted through January 24.

Miami Beach-based real estate agent Rick Kendle tells New Times he has been trying for years to have the city formally memorialize Hernandez, who was known to many by his artist name “Reefa.” He was 18 when he was killed following an on-foot pursuit involving at least a half-dozen police officers.

When Kendle learned last week that Miami Beach was soliciting input from the community, he took to social media — posting across NextDoor where he’s a neighborhood moderator, as well as on his personal Twitter page — to drum up support for the cause.

“We are honored with this news,” Hernandez’s mother, Jacqueline Luz-Llach, tells New Times.

On August 6, 2013, Hernandez was caught tagging his own name on a wall at an abandoned McDonald’s that was already covered in graffiti. When cops arrived, Hernandez led them on a foot chase through several blocks of North Beach before he was killed. He had only scribbled the letter “R” on the wall.

The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner found that Hernandez-Llach died “accidentally” of heart failure owing to “energy device discharge,” and a report from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office stated that the Taser’s probes hit the region of Hernandez’s chest with the least skin-to-heart distance.

Even though Taser International warns against firing directly at the chest, Reefa’s death was considered an accident because Tasers are considered “non-lethal weapons” under state and police policies. Following a nearly two-year investigation, the State Attorney’s Office declined to impanel a grand jury and Ofcr. Jorge Mercado, who trained his Taser on the teen’s chest, evaded criminal responsibility in connection to Hernandez’s death.

In 2017, the City of Miami Beach paid $100,000 as part of a settlement with Hernandez’s family, which had filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.

Hernandez’s tragic death inspired the 2020 film Reefa, which chronicled the events leading to the killing and was filmed locally.

Pamela Largaespada, now 25, acted in the film, playing the role of one of Hernandez’s friends and confidants. Her partner, Thiago Souza, was the lookout while Hernandez tagged the building on that night in August of 2013. She says having the new park named for the late artist would mean having a space where she can one day take her infant daughter and introduce her to Hernandez’s memory.

“It would mean his name continuing, and his spirit will still live on in the community,” Largaespada tells New Times, “that he’ll always be here.”

Largaespada also believes that naming the park after Hernandez would inspire others to learn more about who he was as a person.

“It’d be nice to focus on the beautiful side of Israel’s life instead of what happened, and commemorating that in a positive space,” Largaespada says. “It would feel right.”

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