The medical examiner for Harris County, Texas, has ruled that 24-year-old John Hernandez, who died three days after a deputy’s husband restrained him with an “illegal chokehold,” died from anoxic encephalopathy because of strangulation with chest compression.
In other words, Hernandez died from a lack of oxygen to his brain due to strangulation and compression of his chest, as caused by what we’ve seen in the graphic video of a confrontation outside of a Houston Denny’s.
The death has been ruled a homicide, KPRC2 reported. The ruling appears to be, in the opinion of an attorney for Hernandez’s family, “manslaughter if not a murder […] because it appears the guy has him in a chokehold and he chokes [Hernandez], and he chokes him and eventually kills him.”
As we reported previously, the eventually fatal incident took place on the night of May 28, outside of a Denny’s restaurant in Houston, Texas. There, a visibly intoxicated John Hernandez could be seen staggering as he left the establishment with his wife.
Moments later, an off-duty deputy from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, her husband, since identified as 41-year-old Terry Thompson, and their children arrived at the restaurant. A confrontation between the deputy’s husband and Hernandez ensued that resulted in Hernandez losing his life in the hospital three days later.
A video of that confrontation shows what happened after an initial scuffle in graphic detail.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has said that Hernandez was seen urinating outside the restaurant and that this is what sparked the confrontation.
The new video shows actions that explain the medical examiners ruling on Hernandez’s death.
An attorney for Hernandez’s family, Jack Carroll said he received the video from “[an] anonymous concerned citizen [who] said it shows murder.”
Carroll called the restraint method an “illegal chokehold” and says that both Thompson and his deputy wife are culpable for Hernandez’s death.
“I was pretty shocked. It’s a very sad video. You’re watching a man basically being killed,” Carroll said, according to KTRK. “He was kicking his legs in a helpless fashion, and you could hear him gargling just begging to stop.”
“She had her right knee on his left shoulder,” he added.
Carroll says that the video shows at least the crime of manslaughter taking place and condemned others who stood by as it happened and claimed the person filming the video was doing so illegally.
While Thompson’s attorney Scot Courtney said that the video doesn’t show that Hernandez “was the initial aggressor,” a manslaughter or murder charge remains a possibility if it is deemed that Hernandez was no longer a threat and that the self-defense was no longer taking place.
Neither Thompson nor his deputy wife were arrested. Charges have not been issued either.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said that internal affairs is looking into the incident.
“We can look at the video footage, but ultimately a medical examiner needs to tell us this was the cause of death. This is what led to the death,” he said. “Not just that — yes he died, but was he on top? Another health issue? And so there’s different factors in these types of cases that we have to take into investigation; if not, we wouldn’t be doing a thorough job.”
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has requested the help of the Department of Justice and the Texas Rangers.
When Hernandez stopped moving, it is said that the off-duty deputy, who is wearing a blue top and red shorts in the video, performed CPR and called for an ambulance.
By then, it was already too late.
Hernandez was taken to the hospital and was taken off life support three days later.
The perception of those protesting the fact that there wasn’t an immediate arrest in this case is that if Hernandez was the one doing the restraining — that is, a Mexican man who is not the husband of a law enforcement officer — he’d be in jail.
Gilberto Garcia was among many others protesting in the streets and said just that.
“It’s not fair just because he’s Mexican nobody helped him. It is because the other guy was married with the [deputy],” Garcia told KTRK. “I think if it were the other way around, the guy would be arrested right there.”