Delbert Rodriguez Gutierrez, a Miami street artist who is known as "Demz," died Tuesday after he was struck by a police cruiser during a chase, family and officials told the Miami Herald.
Police allegedly spotted the 21-year-old tagging a private building around 2 a.m. Police said he fled and hid between two cars, and when he leapt from between them he was accidentally struck by the unmarked Miami police department cruiser.
The incident comes as activists have been holding protests in downtown Miami to bring attention to the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases, where police officers were not indicted in their deaths. It also happened during Art Basel, a massive art fair.
Miami police union President Javier Ortiz has come under criticism for his reaction to the death, reportedly telling Gutierrez' mother, Nannette Kaniaris, that her son shouldn't have fled – then offered to buy her dinner.
The Herald reported Ortiz saying:
"I understand she is extremely upset, and rightfully so, and that her son is in the hospital," Ortiz said by text. "However, for every action there's a reaction. If he would have not been committing a crime and then running from law enforcement, this could have been avoided. Her son is in our prayers." Ortiz added that he prayed with the family for Rodriguez.
The Miami police chief said they are investigating.
Tom Namako is the deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tom Namako at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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