Miami Beach graffiti tribute removed

Workers painted over tribute to Israel Hernandez-Llach

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Gone are the slogans of support and messages of protest spray-painted and taped to a vacant commercial building at Collins and 71st street.

Property owners hired a painting crew to cover-up the graffiti early Wednesday morning. The spray-paint on the sidewalk remains. The responsibility for cleaning that up falls with the City of Miami Beach.

The vacant building is where police say they spotted budding artist and well known graffiti vandal Israel Hernandez-Llach tagging last week. On the street he was known as "Reefa".

After running away from police, Officer Jorge Mercado caught up with him and fired his Taser after police say Hernandez-Llach lunged at him.

The 18-year-old would almost immediately go into medical duress before dying at Mount Sinai Hospital.

In the days that followed his family, friends and supporters held vigils at the vacant privately-owned commercial building where the incident started and added graffiti to the entire length of the building.

Property Manager Frank Gonzalez told Local 10 the building's owners, who are out of the country, left the graffiti up for several days in understanding of the community's grief.

At this point Gonzalez said, they felt it was time to paint it over so they can continue showing it to prospective tenants. Renovations for the building include plans to replace the roof and modernize the facade. Gonzalez said they had to postpone several site visits by perspective tenants due to the unsightly condition of the building. Those showing appointments have now been rescheduled for next week. Gonzalez said any graffiti that arises in the future will be immediately removed as they continue to rehabilitate the property. He said the owners purchased it last April as an investment.

Florida Law categorizes graffiti as criminal mischief.

More than $1,000 worth of damage is a third degree felony.

Hernandez-Llach's funeral will be held Wednesday at 1:30pm.

Miami Beach invited the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct an independent investigation as it conducts its own internal affairs report.

Meantime the Medical Examiner's office told Local 10 the release of Hernandez-Llach's autopsy report is pending because the manner/cause of death is still unknown.

Toxicology reports are also pending.

Hernandez-Llach's friend who was with him the morning of the incident confirmed for Local 10 that the pair had been smoking marijuana shortly before police tried to stop the 18-year-old.

His sudden death has shocked the nation and prompted several murals and tribute posts from Miami Beach to Wynwood.

Miami Beach Police say Hernandez-Llach had been wanted by a crime suppression unit. His tagger name of "Reefa" has been spotted from Miami Beach to as far north as Hollywood. Police say he was known as a regional graffiti tagger.

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