A former Harris County sheriff’s deputy and her husband have both been charged with the murder of John Hernandez. Last month, Terry and Chauna Thompson pinned Hernandez to the ground and held him in a headlock until he was unconscious. They could each face life sentences.
The couple were indicted last week on murder charges, accused of intentionally choking the 24-year-old outside a Denny’s restaurant in Sheldon. “We grieve with the Hernandez family,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “We believe that this grand jury true-bill is a reflection of our community’s belief that a crime occurred and that crime was murder — and that it was participated in by Terry Thompson and his wife, Deputy Chauna Thompson.”
The grand jury’s decision comes a day after more than 150 protesters marched across downtown Houston. “This is exactly what we wanted,” said Jose Morales, a close friend of the family. “Thanks to all the attention, justice is going to be served.”
The couple turned themselves in following the indictment and were released on bail the following day. Bail was set at $100,000 each. The indictment was announced jointly by Ogg and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, following a near-full day of testimony from more than a dozen witnesses before the grand jury.
Every aspect of the case was presented to grand jurors, including the video, and both Terry and Chauna Thompson were given the opportunity to testify – both declined.
On May 28, Terry Thompson pulled his car over outside a Denny’s restaurant, in Sheldon, Texas, after he spotted John Hernandez urinating outside, according to Harris County Sheriff, Ed Gonzalez. The two got into an argument that soon escalated.
Video footage captured by an onlooker on the street shows 41-year-old Terry pinning Hernandez face-down to the ground, binding him in a chokehold. Hernandez can be seen kicking out and groaning under Thompson’s weight.
Chauna Thompson, who was off duty, arrived on the scene in a separate car after her husband. In the footage captured, Chauna can be seen holding Hernandez’s left arm to the floor. Alarmed bystanders can be heard screaming at the couple to stop, including Hernandez’s daughter.
“Stay the fuck down!” Chauna Thompson yells at Hernandez.
“Do you want me to hit you again?” her husband asks.
Restaurant worker Melissa Trammell recalled the event to reporters after leaving the grand jury room. “The man was turning purple,” she said, holding back tears. “We begged him to get off the man and he wouldn’t.”
“He looked me in the face and said, ‘I’m not getting off him,'” she said.
At some point during this attack, John Hernandez stopped breathing. The police claim Chauna Thompson administered CPR before paramedics arrived on the scene and rushed him to the hospital. Sadly, Hernandez slipped into a coma and died on May 31 from strangulation and chest compression.
Although it’s unclear who started the attack, one of the Thompson’s attorneys has said that Terry was attacked by Hernandez and was acting in self-defense.