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Israel Hernández-Llach, 18, collapsed and died Tuesday after five Miami Beach, Florida, police officers chased and cornered him, and one then fired a taser into his chest. His alleged crime was painting graffiti on the wall of an abandoned McDonald’s restaurant.
Hernández, whose family recently immigrated from Colombia, had received acclaim in Florida art circles as a sculptor, painter, writer, and photographer inspired by his experiences in Colombia as well as the United States. Using the moniker “Reefa,” Hernández painted colorful murals on the sides of abandoned buildings, an activity the police and some property owners consider vandalism.
Thiago Souza, a companion of Hernández who witnessed the killing, described the officers as patting each other on the back and “high-fiving” after the young man collapsed on the ground. “You should have seen how funny it was when his butt clenched when he got tased,” Souza quoted one officer as saying to him, adding, “It was almost like they were proud of what they did.” — RINF
Bridge St. Railroad Abutment
for Israel Hernandez
These tagged abutments, chalked
and painted, splashed with a sprawl
of color, interlocked
by a cuneiform scrawl
from cinders to rusty beam,
might tell you something true
if you believe that dream
informs what's real: in blue
and purple, look — eVolVe!
Then layered next, Get Hi! —
and under that, dissolved
by rain and time, Why?
RelaX! might claim it's art
or merely firm command,
but meaning's only part
of message here, and
form's design that knows.
When taggers blazon YES!
to life, and overdose
on glitzy glyphs, suggesting
Truth loves Beauty, and Word
loves World — they still must hide
from city cops who've heard
that art is not on their side.
At night they work; by twos,
or soloing, they dance —
you ever watch them move?
The one who sprays PerChanCe
to dreAm's alive with it,
enhancing vital wit,
a soul you almost see.
When tagging's done, he'll spray
one word on a nearby fence
as rattling boxcars make