Graffiti writer who died after police tasered him was known as 'Reefa'

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Israel Hernandez, who died Tuesday after Miami Beach police tasered him, was known as "Reefa" in the local graffiti and skateboarding scene. He was 18.

The recent Miami Beach High School graduate was working on a piece on Collins Avenue and 71st Street, when a police officer spotted him. Hernandez ran as fast as he could. Several police officers searched for him. He ran in between buildings toward 69th Street.

He jumped a white iron fence, and landed on the hood of a gray Mustang, police said. Police officers caught up to him on Harding Avenue where an officer tasered him. Fire Rescue took him to Mount Sinai where he was pronounced dead about 6:15 a.m.

"He had dreams. He wanted to design skate boards," his friend Rafael Lynch, 19, said.  "We would skate all the time. We wanted to find new ways to do tricks. He wanted to change the standard shape of the skateboard and was experimenting."

Hernandez was born in Colombia. His favorite band was an electro tropical band known as Bomba Stereo, Lynch said. Besides skateboarding, he also loved art and graphic design.

Hernandez was a regular at MIA Skate shop in Sunny Isles Beach, where Lynch works.

"He was a creative, free soul artist," MIA Skate shop sales associate Jamey Azelvandre said.

Lynch said Hernandez had recently gotten legal status and was considering going to college. His friends distributed photos of his graffiti as "Reefa" on social media to honor his memory. On Twitter and Instagram, #IsraelHernandez was used to share anger and grief over his death.

Heather Bozzone posted some of Hernandez's art work as a Miami Beach High School student on Vine.

"Every one is in shock," Azelvandre said. "We want to know what happened to him."

Miami Beach Detective Vivian Hernandez said the incident was under investigation and they were awaiting the results of the autopsy.

Hernandez is survived by his parents, whom he lived with in Bay Harbour, and his sister.

Full Screen
1 / 3