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Deputy, husband indicted in man’s beating death turn selves in

Fatal beating video

HOUSTON -- A Texas sheriff's deputy and her husband were indicted Thursday on murder charges in the death of a man they restrained during a late-night confrontation outside a restaurant while she was off duty.

A Harris County grand jury in Houston returned the indictment against Chauna and Terry Thompson for the fatal altercation with 24-year-old John Hernandez. The Thompsons declined to testify before the grand jury, District Attorney Kim Ogg said. Both turned themselves in about 10 p.m. Thursday, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office Twitter page. Bond was set at $100,000 apiece. They posted bond and were released, reports CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV.

The grand jury heard from more than a dozen witnesses and viewed video of the May 28 incident that bystanders recorded, Ogg said.

Hernandez died three days after the confrontation, which occurred outside a Denny's restaurant in Sheldon, 17 miles northeast of Houston.

Johnny Hernandez, 24, was taken off life support on May 31, 2017.
Johnny Hernandez, 24, was taken off life support on May 31, 2017. Family via KHOU

Ogg said Chauna Thompson, a Harris County deputy, 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.

Relatives of Hernandez said they are pleased the Thompsons were indicted, but they won't stop putting pressure on authorities to bring justice in the case.

Melissa Hernandez, a cousin who was among more than 40 people who gathered at the Denny's for a news conference Thursday after the indictments, said the charges are "a great step in the right direction." She added: "It's not gonna stop here. We're gonna keep fighting. We are gonna keep pushing until we get the justice that John deserves."

Attorney Scot Courtney, who is representing Terry Thompson, said there wasn't enough evidence to warrant a murder indictment against his client, and he criticized the district attorney's office for putting the case before a grand jury so quickly.

Despite the indictments, the criminal investigation continues with the assistance of the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Justice Department, Ogg said.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who appeared at the Thursday announcement with the district attorney, 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, the sheriff 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.

1ahernandez.jpg
Johnny Hernandez KHOU

Hernandez was Latino and the Thompsons are white, but authorities have not said that race was a factor in the incident.

Investigators said Terry Thompson saw an intoxicated Hernandez urinating outside the restaurant and that he restrained Hernandez while his wife helped. A medical examiner ruled that Hernandez died of lack of oxygen to the brain caused by strangulation and chest compression.

Acording to KHOU, witnesses said he beat and restrained Hernandez even after he was clearly unconscious. They said Hernandez was too drunk to defend himself against the much larger Thompson.

"It's wrong, you know they shouldn't have killed the man. Nobody's life is worth taking for a mistake. We all make mistakes," Melissa Trammel told KHOU. "Me and my manager, we begged this man. He was turning purple we told him to stop but he did not stop."

Cellphone video recorded by an unidentified bystander has been released by the bystander's attorney. The footage shows a man lying on top of Hernandez. Jack Carroll, the attorney for the person who recorded the video, has said the man restraining Hernandez used an illegal chokehold.

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