ART CRIMES: RIP Israel ‘Reefa’ Hernandez

by Raymond Herrera


The morning of Tuesday, Aug 6th started with a tragedy in the death by electrocution in the tazing of 18 year old Graffiti artist Israel ‘Reefa’ Hernandez by Miami Beach Police officer Jorge Mercado. Reefa hadn’t even finished tagging the R of his name when he was approached by police, which gave way to a chase that ended in his death.

This is a video of the site where the chase started, along with close up images of the unfinished piece, the R of his name, before the police pursuit:

The Miami Herald caught Hernandez’s family attorney Todd McPharlin’s message to the crowd of protesters, media, and law enforcement, “Since Israel’s death, the family has been calling for an independent investigation into Israel’s death and the actions of the Miami Beach Police Department…Yesterday we learned the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be getting involved into that investigation. We see that as a first step in getting the answers that the Hernandez family needs and deserves, and this community needs and deserves.”

While the vigil was peaceful, police used common protest suppression tactics as seen in this Instagram video of police surrounding Reefa’s mother for allegedly J-walking during the protest. The video was taken by Miami artist Aholsniffsglue.

Tribute pieces have also started popping up on IG and Twitter under the hashtag #RIPReefa. Traditionally tribute pieces will go up for a year after the artist has passed.


Reefa Tribute, Atomik, IG @atomiko

andrew antonaccio

Reefa Tribute sketch, Andrew Antonaccio, IG @andrewantonaccio

We hope for a thorough investigation of this tragedy. I’m confused as to who the officers in question were serving and protecting that morning. Surely capturing ‘vandals,’ in a city where the Graffiti/Streetart culture makes it one of it’s most precious assets, is not worth anyone’s life. But by looking at the comments section of the Miami Herald blurb, the opinions are split somewhere between “justice served/he got what he deserved/hope you learned your lesson kids,” and “Lets make sense of this so it doesn’t happen again/FTP.” Where do you stand on this ancient art form?