Harris County Sheriff Asks Feds to Probe Man's Death After Fight With Deputy's Husband

The Harris County sheriff has asked state and federal law enforcement agencies to probe the strange death of a Houston man after a fight with a deputy's husband outside a Denny's restaurant.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez announced at a press conference Friday that he would ask the Texas Rangers and the Department of Justice to join the investigation. Gonzalez said he had “full confidence” in his investigators, but that the cooperation was necessary to “to make sure we have full transparency and to make sure there’s another set of independent eyes.”

Once they were done, Gonzalez said, he would forward the case to the Harris County District Attorney’s office for consideration.

Civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement often spark controversy, especially when they’re investigated by the officers' colleagues. But this particular incident, which involves a public urination and a Denny’s, has also attracted attention for its weirdness.

Around midnight on Sunday, May 28, the 41-year-old husband of a sheriff’s deputy pulled into the parking lot of a Denny’s restaurant near Beltway 8 and U.S. 90, according to a press release from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. His children, whose names and ages were not released, were also in the car.

The man was planning to have a meal with his family when he noticed another man urinating, police said. Police said that man was 24-year-old John Hernandez. The father, 41, approached Hernandez, ostensibly to complain about his public urination, when a physical fight ensued.

The fight was still going when the older man’s wife, an off-duty Harris County sheriff’s deputy, pulled up to the restaurant in a second car to meet her family. She called the sheriff’s office and EMS and then helped her husband restrain Hernandez, police said.

Then, the couple noticed Hernandez wasn’t breathing. The off-duty sheriff’s deputy started giving him CPR, police said. Medical staff took Hernandez to Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, where he died three days later.

The incident has prompted lots of questions, including how the confrontation escalated, how Hernandez died and why a family with two children were meeting at midnight for dinner. The hope — now that feds are involved — is that those questions will be answered.

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