Video Shows Deputy's Husband Hold Man, Who Would Later Die, in Chokehold
Warning: The video above contains graphic content and obscene language.
A video shot by a bystander depicts the husband of a Harris County Sheriff's Deputy on top of John Hernandez and holding him in a chokehold as Hernandez groans and wails.
The husband, identified by the Houston Chronicle as Terry Thompson, confronted Hernandez after he saw him urinating outside a Denny's restaurant near Beltway 8 and U.S. 90. That led to a physical altercation between the two. Thompson's wife, Deputy Shauna Thompson, arrived minutes later and helped subdue Hernandez. She was not on duty.
Hernandez died three days later.
"This clearly showed Terry Thompson choking and eventually killing John Hernandez," Randall Kallinen, an attorney for the Hernandez family, said.
In the 52-second clip, Terry Thompson can be seen on top of Hernandez, holding him in a chokehold. Hernandez groans and wiggles his legs. Blood is visible on Hernandez's hands and the sidewalk.
"Do you want me to hit you again?" Terry Thompson asks. Hernandez responds with a groan, and Thompson repeats the question.
About 20 seconds in, a woman steps in front of the man filming and demands that he stop.
"It's illegal to record," she says, though the First Amendment protects the rights of citizens to film in public, including incidents involving police officers.
Another man, in a leather vest, asks if the man filming is a member of the media, and blocks the camera's view of the Thompsons and Hernandez.
Philip Stephenson, a Houston attorney for the law offices of Jack B. Carroll, said a man who wishes to remain anonymous sent the video to Carroll and asked him to publish it. Stephenson said the anonymous man witnessed part of the altercation.
"He was having dinner at Denny's when he heard a commotion," Stephenson said. "When he tried to intervene, he was pushed back and rebuked."
Stephenson said the bystander has no relationship to the Thompsons or Hernandez and simply wants the public and the authorities to have a full account of the events that led to Hernandez's death.
Investigators are still trying to piece together what led to Hernandez's fatal injuries that evening, around midnight on May 28. What is known is that Terry Thompson first arrived with the couple's children to meet his wife for a meal. When Shauna Thompson arrived and saw her husband and Hernandez fighting, she called for on-duty officers to respond.
Kallinen, attorney for Hernandez's family, told the Houston Press he believes Terry Thompson murdered his client and that Shauna Thompson, a trained law enforcement officer, had a responsibility to prevent the killing.
Sheriff's office spokesman Jason Spencer refused to identify the deputy involved in the incident, or even confirm that the department employed a deputy named Shauna Thompson, but said the deputy remains on active duty.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office said prosecutors will take the case to a grand jury when the sheriff's department completes its investigation. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez on Friday asked for the Texas Rangers and the federal Department of Justice to join the probe, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest since a sheriff's deputy was involved in the incident.
No charges have yet been filed.
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