A Broward graffiti artist is reportedly in critical condition after being hit by an unmarked Miami Police Department car Friday morning. The man, 21-year-old Delbert Rodriguez Gutierrez of Pembroke Pines, was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital after he was seen tagging a wall in Wynwood.
Wynwood is the site in Miami of the annual Art Basel, which attracts thousands of visitors to take in art shows, as well as being home to artists who paint murals and graffiti on its many walls and warehouses.
There's an undercover Miami Police unit assigned to the Wynwood and Midtown Miami area during this time of year.
According to a report by the Miami Herald, Gutierrez was apparently seen spray-painting one of the Wynwood walls by one of these officers shortly after midnight Friday.
When Gutierrez saw the officer, he ran off and hid between some parked cars. When the officer's car turned, Gutierrez came from out between the cars. That's when he was struck. According to Miami Police, Gutierrez was transported by Miami Fire Rescue to Jackson, where he remains in critical condition.
The officer driving the car is identified as Michael Cadavid. The Miami Police Department maintains that Cadavid struck Gutierrez by accident.
The controversy here is that Gutierrez was doing what most artists come to do during Art Basel weekend. But the Miami PD says the undercover unit exists because, as Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa says, "we have people that come into the city that think they're artists and start graffitying everything."
The wall Gutierrez was tagging is located on at NW Fifth Avenue and 24th Street, right in the heart of Wynwood. As of Friday afternoon, anyone driving through the area can see artists spray-painting walls throughout Wynwood and onlookers and Art Basel patrons taking photos of them at work.
According to Orosa, there were 20 arrests made last year during Art Basel.
The police department also says it plans to investigate. While Cadavid's car does not have a video camera, it does have a black box, which police say will be examined. According to Orosa, when Gutierrez's condition improves, he's likely facing some kind of vandalism charge.
Unrelated to this incident, a mass march to protest the recent nonindictments of police offers from Ferguson and New York, as well as the tasing death of another graffiti artist, Israel Hernandez, at the hands of Miami Police back in March, is scheduled to go down in Wynwood in the middle of Art Basel at 5:00 p.m.
The march will begin at NW First Avenue and 36th Street, just a few blocks away from where Gutierrez was struck.