Death of Miami Beach teenager rekindles debate over Taser safety
MIAMI (REUTERS) - When police spotted Mr Israel Hernandez Llach spray-painting a shut-down McDonald's in August, the Miami teenager decided to make a run for it. Moments later, the unarmed, 18-year-old graffiti artist was dead. He had been struck in the chest by a police stun gun.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is still investigating what caused the Aug 6 death of the Colombian-born teenager. His death in Miami Beach, where police conduct has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, has triggered protests calling for a change in the way officers use the stun guns known as Tasers. It has also reignited a debate about whether the electrical shock the Taser delivers can sometimes trigger a cardiac arrest when fired at the chest area.
"The fact that he was shot in the chest is something we are analysing," said Mr Jose Rodriguez, a lawyer for Mr Hernandez Llach's family. "We're working with the assumption for now that the Taser caused his death."
Tasers, used by police officers in the United States and globally, have been the target of criticism from advocacy groups like Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union, which argue they can be lethal and have called for more stringent rules on their use. Proponents of Tasers say stun guns are a very useful tool for law enforcement officers, enabling them to subdue suspects without deadly force.