Last Friday during Art Basel in Miami, Pembroke Pines graffiti artist Delbert Rodriguez Gutierrez -- AKA Demz -- was struck by an unmarked Miami Police Department car while fleeing from cops. Demz had run from the officer after he was spotted tagging a building in Wynwood. The accident caused severe head injuries. On Tuesday night, with family by his bedside at the hospital, Demz succumbed to injuries. He was 21.
Wynwood is Miami neighborhood where artists paint murals and graffiti on its many walls and warehouses. It especially attracts a lot of visitors during Art Basel Miami Beach, a contemporary art fair that attracts thousands of visitors from around the world. An undercover Miami police unit was assigned to the Wynwood and Midtown Miami area during last week's event, leading critics to wonder if it's necessary for police to chase artists for spray-painting walls in an art district during an art festival.
According to reports, Demz was apparently seen by Miami Police officer Michael Cadavid shortly after midnight Friday. The young tagger was spray-painting one of the Wynwood walls.
When Demz saw Cadavid, he ran off and hid between some parked cars. When the officer's car turned, Demz came from out between the cars. That's when he was struck. Demz was then transported by Miami Fire Rescue to Jackson.
The Miami Police Department maintains that Cadavid struck Gutierrez by accident.
The family claims the police's story is highly questionable and, over the weekend, Demz's mother told New Times via email that Cadavid acted "irresponsibly." She also claimed that neither Cadavid nor Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa had contacted her to talk about the incident or her ailing son, even after reports of the run-in had begun to spread.
On hearing the news of Demz's death Tuesday, Orosa told the Miami Herald that Cadavid is "devastated."
"I understand the family is devastated as well," he said. "It's unfortunate that the young man tried to run from police."
The Police Department has said it plans to investigate. While Cadavid's car did not have a video camera, it does have a black box, which police say will be examined. On Friday, Orosa said Demz was likely going to face some kind of vandalism charge.
The wall Demz was tagging is located on at NW Fifth Avenue and 24th Street, right in the heart of Wynwood.
You can see a video of his work below: