Eyewitness video reveals that Terry Thompson, the husband of a Texas sheriff’s deputy, applied what has been deemed an illegal chokehold to a man who later died as a result of injuries sustained in the altercation.
Houston attorney Jack B. Carroll, who represents the party responsible for recording the video, showed the footage to reporters earlier this June. He told reporters from Houston’s KPRC News that the video shows Chauna Thompson, an off-duty Harris County deputy, and her husband Terry restraining 24-year-old John Hernandez outside a Denny’s restaurant.
“You’re watching a man basically being killed,” Carroll said. “He was kicking his legs in a helpless fashion and you can hear him gurgling, just begging to stop.”
The incident captured on video occurred on May 28 after Thompson saw Hernandez intoxicated and urinating outside of a Denny’s restaurant. According to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, he then “verbally confronted … Hernandez about his behavior” and a physical altercation ensued.
One eyewitness told Houston’s KPRC News that Thompson sat on top of Hernandez for much of the altercation.
The newly released footage also shows Chauna helping her husband restrain Hernandez. After it becomes apparent his breathing has stopped, the couple relents. Gonzalez said that Thompson administered CPR until paramedics arrived, but it was too late.
Hernandez died three days later as a result of his injuries.
This video footage is only the latest in a growing trend of citizen bystanders capturing vital evidence on their smartphones. Security experts believe that almost 67% of burglaries and similar crimes can be prevented simply by the presence of surveillance cameras. But in an age filled with social media, video taken on smartphones has become a crucial way to gather evidence.
Now, as a result of that additional evidence, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has ruled Hernandez’s death as a homicide. The medical examiner’s office released Hernandez’s cause of death this month as well; he died from “anoxic encephalopathy or lack of oxygen to the brain, due to strangulation with chest compression,” according to ABC 13 News.
The DA’s office reported that evidence from this case will be presented to a grand jury. While nobody in this case has been charged, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has still requested oversight from the Department of Justice and Texas Rangers.
It’s uncertain where this case will end, but had it not been for one eyewitness’s cell phone, it may have passed almost entirely without notice.