Update: A witness reached by New Times disputes the police version of events. Danny Garcia, a friend who was with Demz that night, says there’s no way he had time to disappear down a side street before police hit him. New Times also reviewed the officers’ IA record, which shows numerous complaints for aggressive behavior. Read the full story here
This past Friday night, thousands of protesters marched through Wynwood and blocked traffic on I-195 to protest police brutality, including the killing by Miami Beach Police officers last year of a young graffiti artist named Israel “Reefa” Hernandez.
Unbeknownst to most protestors, just a few hours earlier and a few blocks away, local cops had chased another young tagger — 21-year-old Delbert “Demz” Rodriguez — and hit him with an unmarked cruiser, leaving him with grievous head wounds.
Late last night, Demz died from those injuries.
Friends and family had been standing vigil around his bedside at Jackson Memorial Hospital since Friday, though the prognosis for any recovery was always slim.
Police claim Rodriguez was killed after running from an undercover unit assigned to bust taggers in Wynwood during Art Basel weekend. As a gang unit officer named Michael Cadavid pursued him early on Friday morning, police say, Rodriguez hid between two parked cars and then leaped into the street. Cadavid couldn’t avoid hitting him, they say.
“The officer is devastated, and I understand the family is devastated as well,” Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa told the Miami Herald. “It’s unfortunate that the young man tried to run from police.”
But family and friends have strongly disputed that police narrative. Fellow graffiti artists have questioned why an undercover unit was out looking for taggers during Basel week, when hundreds descend on Wynwood to paint new murals on nearly every free surface. The area where officers began chasing Demz, for instance, is already spiderwebbed with graffiti tags. (via)