MIAMI (AP) — No criminal charges will be brought against a Miami Beach police officer whose use of a Taser caused the accidental death of a young graffiti artist almost two years ago, prosecutors said Thursday.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katharine Fernandez Rundle said no charges were possible after a medical examiner ruled the Aug. 6, 2013 death of 18-year-old Israel "Reefa" Hernandez-Llach was accidental and a lengthy investigation found Miami Beach Officer Jorge Mercado acted properly.
Hernandez-Llach died after Mercado used a Taser on the teenager during a foot chase triggered after a witness saw him spray-painting graffiti on an abandoned building. The prosecution report found Mercado was legally justified in using the generally nonlethal electronic device and had no "reasonable expectation" it would kill Hernandez-Llach.
"Our extensive investigation determined that the sad tragedy of this situation is that no one involved intended or anticipated any serious injury occurring to this young man," Fernandez Rundle said in a statement.
The teenager's family has sued the police department and Hernandez-Llach's friends and supporters had earlier staged protests seeking action, particularly after protests over police violence drew national attention in places such as Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.
The confrontation happened after Hernandez-Llach and two others were seen spray-painting an abandoned McDonald's about a block from the beach. When officers arrived, he took off running and refused repeated verbal commands to stop, according to the prosecution report, and was finally halted by Mercado's Taser.
Hernandez-Llach died about an hour later at a hospital. The medical examiner ruled the cause was heart failure traced to the electronic device, an unusual ruling in such cases.
The case was also reviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which completed its work in May. The prosecution's report said no murder or manslaughter charges could be brought against Mercado, who was acting properly as a law enforcement officer investigating a crime.
"The force used by Officer Mercado to effectuate the arrest of Hernandez-Llach was reasonable under the facts," the report concluded. "The police, whose obligation is to enforce the laws of the state of Florida, are not in the practice of allowing those who have committed crimes to simply run away from the scene and escape."
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