Recorded on cellphone video helping her husband choke an unarmed man to death outside a Denny’s in Texas, a Harris County sheriff’s deputy was indicted Thursday along with her husband for killing a 24-year-old man. According to reports, the deputy and her husband killed the intoxicated man because they witnessed him urinating outside the restaurant.
On the night of May 28, John Hernandez and his family were eating at Denny’s in Sheldon, Texas, when Hernandez allegedly stepped outside to urinate instead of using the bathroom. During a recent interview with KHOU, Denny’s waitress Melissa Trammell recalled that the Hernandez family was very pleasant to all of the staff even though Hernandez appeared to be drunk after attending a party.
According to investigators, Terry Thompson, 41, saw Hernandez urinating in public and verbally confronted the younger man. With no witnesses or initial recording of the incident, authorities still do not know who started the physical altercation.
A bystander captured the end of the fight on cellphone video as Thompson asked Hernandez, “Do you want me to hit you again?”
Restraining Hernandez’s left arm with her hands and knee, off-duty Deputy Chauna Thompson shouted, “Stay the fuck down!”
Hernandez could be heard groaning in pain while weakly flailing his legs against the sidewalk. Instead of applying a carotid restraint to put Hernandez to sleep within seconds, Thompson used the bulk of his weight to apply pressure against Hernandez’s throat, which blocked oxygen from reaching his lungs. In recent years, many police departments have banned the use of chokeholds because inexperienced officers are unable to differentiate between a carotid restraint and strangulation.
As Thompson continued to choke Hernandez for several minutes, at least two belligerent witnesses, who seemed familiar with the Thompsons, assaulted the bystander recording the incident and attempted to steal the witness’ cellphone before the footage abruptly ended. Trammell recalled Hernandez’s wife and 3-year-old daughter standing beside her, witnessing Hernandez’s face turning purple while pleading for the Thompsons to stop. According to Trammell, the police did not arrive until 43 minutes after the initial 911 call.
During a recent press conference, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez stated that Deputy Thompson applied CPR after noticing Hernandez had stopped breathing. Although transported to a nearby hospital, Hernandez slipped into a coma and died three days later due to a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by chest compression and strangulation.
Earlier this week, the bystander’s cellphone footage was released to the public, while Deputy Thompson was assigned to desk duty. On Thursday, a grand jury indicted the Thompsons for murdering Hernandez.
“The video to me is almost by itself enough. You see a person on the ground who is completely immobilized and grunting and moaning. And you see a big guy on top of him choking him and he dies of that choking,” Hernandez family attorney Randall Kallinen told ABC13.
Detained in custody overnight, the Thompsons are currently out on bond. If convicted, they face five years to life in prison.
“We do not ask for the death penalty for the Thompson family,” Wendy Maldonado, Hernandez’s aunt, told ABC13. “This family has a heart and we are filled with love and we are human, too. We’d rather them get life sentences.”