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 of a Houston-area restaurant.
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A Harris County grand jury in Houston returned the indictment against Harris County deputy Shauna Thompson and her husband, Terry Thompson, in the death of 24-year-old John Hernandez.
The Thompsons will be allowed to turn themselves in, District Attorney Kim Ogg said. They declined to testify before the grand jury, she said, but more than a dozen witnesses did appear and the jurors viewed video of the incident that bystanders recorded.
Hernandez died three days after the May 28 confrontation that he had with the Thompsons outside the Denny’s restaurant in Sheldon, 17 miles (27.36 kilometers) northeast of Houston.
Ogg said Shauna Thompson was indicted on a murder charge because Texas law holds a person equally criminally responsible if he or she 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.
Attorneys for the Thompsons did not immediately respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment on Thursday.
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 Shauna 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.
Hernandez was Latino and the Thompsons are white, but authorities have not said that race was a factor in the incident.
Investigators say 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.
Cellphone video recorded by an unidentified bystander has been released by the bystander’s attorney and posted on local media websites. 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.