Earlier this week, disturbing footage of a man choking another man outside of a Denny’s restaurant in Harris County, Texas, was released.
The man doing the choking is Terry Thompson, and his wife Chauna Thompson is a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy. The Thompsons were not arrested immediately following the incident, which led some to wonder if they would be charged at all.
Yesterday, District Attorney Kim Ogg announced at a press conference that both Sheriff Deputy Chauna Thompson, 45, and her husband, Terry Thompson, 41, were indicted for the murder of John Hernandez, 24.
For those who are not familiar with this tragic story, here is some background:
John Hernandez, 24, was drunk when he went to the restaurant Sunday night, his family told reporters. From the surveillance video, a wobbly Hernandez can be seen entering the restaurant. He sat down but got up to leave the establishment, over the objections of his wife who pleaded for him to stay.The Thompsons turned themselves in yesterday and spent the night in jail after the grand jury indictment was announced. Both were released from jail today, after each posted bonds of $100,000.
The drunken man then reportedly relieved himself outside the front entrance, apparently in front of the deputy and her husband. Taking umbrage with the grown man peeing in the parking lot, the deputy’s husband confronted Hernandez about his actions.
According to Thompson, he claims the drunken Hernandez struck him and started a fight which ended when the deputy’s husband reportedly choked the man unconscious. The off-duty deputy helped restrain Hernandez and noticed he wasn’t breathing.
She started CPR and waited for paramedics to arrive. After on-duty police arrived, surprisingly, the deputy’s husband was not charged with assault, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter, or even murder.
Hernandez was transported to the hospital by ambulance, was placed into intensive care, but was taken off of life support. He later died.
The grand jury interviewed twelve witnesses and Hernandez’s wife, and reviewed the autopsy report, the findings of the medical examiner, and saw video evidence that was also released to the public. Ogg said Chauna and Terry were offered the opportunity to testify, but they both declined.
Warning: Disturbing content
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said while it is difficult to see one of his deputies indicted for murder, he believes all the facts were presented.
“I think that we all worked very hard to try to do what was right and in the end make sure that justice would prevail, and it’s still ongoing process, but we support the decision of the grand jury.”Detectives were not called out the night of the confrontation. Gonzalez addressed this in the press conference:
“In hindsight it would have been ideal for us to respond, of course, obviously knowing eventually that Mr. Hernandez did die, his injuries were more severe, but at the end of the day, we’re confident that all the information that was needed was gathered.”The Harris County medical examiner said an autopsy revealed that Hernandez died from anoxic encephalopathy, or damage to the brain from lack of oxygen, because of strangulation with chest compression. His death was ruled a homicide.
Gonzalez said Chauna Thompson has cooperated with the internal investigation that the sheriff’s office is conducting. She remains on administrative leave indefinitely and her employment status will not be decided until after the internal investigation, he said.
“We’ve all worked very hard to try to do what was right and to make sure that at the end justice will prevail. We support the decision of the grand jury,” Gonzalez said.
Ogg said Chauna Thompson was indicted on a murder charge because Texas law holds a person equally criminally responsible if that individual aids or otherwise participates in the act.
“We grieve with the Hernandez family and wish them Godspeed during this difficult time. Today we moved one step closer to justice for John Hernandez,” Ogg told reporters in announcing the indictments.
The Thompsons face five years to life in prison if convicted. They are expected back in court on June 13.