ACLU demands change in police department policies and full investigations as a result of medical examiner’s announcement and other Miami-Dade deaths following electroshock weapon shootings

CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office,, (786) 363-2737

MIAMI BEACH - On Tuesday morning, August 6th, 2013, Israel “Reefa” Hernandez-Llach, a 17-year-old artist from Miami, died after being shot in the chest with an electroshock weapon by Miami Beach Police. Six months later, the medical examiner concluded that he died of heart failure from the energy device discharge.

The following statement on the findings may be attributed to Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida:

“The death of a teenager with a promising future is now clearly understood as the result of being shot with an electroshock weapon by Miami Beach Police. His apparent crime: graffiti.

“This tragic act, in which the Miami Beach Police Department used excessive and disproportionate force, has finally been proven to also have been the cause of a young man’s death. Unfortunately, the Miami Beach Police have a troubling track record of excessive force and a lack of transparency after such incidents.

“Law enforcement’s tactics need to be proportionate to the degree of threat to public safety and the safety of the officers. Policies by local law enforcement agencies seem to allow the use of electroshock devices that go beyond that standard. The medical safety of what police claim to be ‘less-than-lethal’ weapons is still being questioned. Without clear training and limitations, officers may be using these weapons not because it is appropriate in a specific situation, but because it is the weapon available to them and easier than a physical altercation. Due to the number of deaths and the still unknown consequences of electroshock weapons,  police should not be using these weapons when there is a safer alternative to restraining a suspect – one proportionate to the threat to public safety and police.

“The medical examiner’s announcement that Hernandez-Llach's death was the result of the ‘energy device discharge’ from the electroshock weapon fired by police, coupled with reports of the death of three Miami-Dade men following police electroshock shootings within the last month, put into deep question the use of the weapon as a so called ‘non-lethal’ option to restrain suspects.

“Given the harmful medical and deadly consequences of electroshock weapons, all South Florida police departments need to reform their policies for the use of the weapon and provide additional training to dramatically reduce the ‘accidental deaths’ due to their use.

“The family and friends of Israel Hernandez-Llach deserve a full and thorough investigation into the shooting; as do the families of Willie Sams, Maykel Antonio Barrera and Treon Johnson, the other three men who recently died following police electroshock shootings.