Two weekends ago, John Hernandez enjoyed a late-night meal at Denny’s restaurant with his wife and daughter. Today, the 24-year-old father is dead and buried. Hernandez died of injuries sustained when he was tackled, straddled, and choked by the husband of an off-duty Harris County Sheriff’s deputy as the victim’s young daughter screamed, “Quit hitting my daddy!”
Melissa Trammell is the Denny’s waitress who served the Hernandez family on the night of May 28. Trammell witnessed Thompson’s attack on Hernandez, but noted that as a Denny’s employee, she was afraid she’d get in trouble if she physically intervened. Trammell told Houston news channel KHOU11 that she and “six or seven” others called 911 to report the incident. Police arrived at the scene some 40 minutes later.
“I don’t know how it began, but I do know that the Thompson dude would not let go of Hernandez. We kept asking him to please let go, let go. And they did not let go. He kept holding him in a choke hold, holding him and just never would let him go after turning blue. He was turning purple. We begged this man, me and my manager begged for him to stop. But he did not stop.”
Terry Thompson’s defense attorney, Scot Courtney, blames Hernandez for initiating the altercation that led to his own death. Courtney says that Hernandez threw the first punch. Greg Cagle, defense lawyer for Chauna Thompson, says that his client administered CPR on Hernandez after she noticed he was not breathing. Denny’s employees who witnessed the incident said they did not see Hernandez strike anyone nor did they see Deputy Thompson give any sort of aid to the man her husband was crushing and choking. Chauna Thompson assisted in the killing of the unarmed Hernandez, according to civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen.
“Do you want me to hit you again? Do you want me to hit you again?”
Uttered by Terry Thompson, these words are clearly heard in a cell phone video taken by an onlooker as Thompson choked and crushed John Hernandez so severely he lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered. Deputy Thompson can also be heard screaming expletives at the pinned man.
John Hernandez was taken off life support three days after the incident. The local medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be homicide by strangulation and chest compression. Funeral services for the victim of the Denny’s murder were held at St. Dominic Catholic Church. Hernandez was buried at San Jacinto Memorial Park.
Harris County sheriff’s deputy Chauna Thompson and her husband were indicted June 8 on murder charges. As District Attorney Kim Ogg handed down the indictment, she described the department’s dismay.
“We grieve with the Hernandez family. 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 Thompsons posted $200,000 bail and were released from custody Friday morning. Deputy Thompson has been reassigned to administrative duty. If convicted in the Denny’s murder of John Anthony Hernandez, the pair could be imprisoned for the rest of their lives, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The murder of an apparently intoxicated but unarmed Hernandez provoked considerable outrage in the Houston suburb of Crosby. On Wednesday, dozens of protesters demanded justice for slain father during a march through downtown Houston. Many wore gray shirts emblazoned with the hashtag slogan #JusticeForJohn!
Allegations that Terry Thompson received preferential treatment from his spouse’s law enforcement colleagues will be addressed, noted Harris County District Attorney, Tom Berg.
“It does raise questions for us. We are concerned that things happened later than they should have, but we have a complete picture now. We will show no favoritism. We will let the chips fall as they may with the grand jury.”
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told CNN that the Harris County Sheriff’s Department has asked the Texas Rangers and Department of Justice to review the investigation.
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