Deadly altercation case sent to grand jury

- The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences has determined that John Hernandez died of anoxic encephalopathy as a result of strangulation with chest compression, ruling his death a homicide. 

Cell phone camera video showed Johnny Hernandez face down with Terry Thompson is on top of him, Thompson's arm around Hernandez's neck. Thompson's wife, a Harris County Sheriff's Office deputy, is pinning down Hernandez's  shoulder as his legs are flailing and he's moaning. Attorney Jack Carroll told reporters on Monday that his client shot the footage but wanted to remain out of the investigation.

The incident was reported on Sunday night. Surveillance video shows a visibly-intoxicated Hernandez leaving a Denny's restaurant in east Harris County. Thompson is seen approaching Hernandez and confronting him for urinating in the parking lot. The two men fight, but there is no way to determine from the video who started it. When it was over, Hernandez was taken to a hospital and Thompson walked free.

With the cause of death now confirmed, the Hernandez family’s lawyer says there's plenty of probable cause for an arrest. But none have been made. Family and friends at a Tuesday press conference for Hernandez believe the lack of charges is due to Thompson’s wife –- seen also holding Hernandez down in the video – being a Harris County Sheriff's Deputy.

The lawyer for the Thompsons say the video does not show the full picture, and that Hernandez had been urinating outside and got hostile when Thompson confronted him.

Hours after the incident was confirmed a homicide, Harris County District Attorney's Office announced the case had been handed over to them from the sheriff's office and will go before a grand jury. The office released this statement:

The Harris County District Attorney's Office has received the evidence the Sheriff's Office has gathered up to this point in the death of John Hernandez.  Prosecutors started reviewing that evidence Tuesday evening and will present it to a grand jury of citizens in the near future.  Under Texas law, in felony cases, grand jurors determine if a crime has been committed.

The Harris County Sheriffs' Office sent a notice out this evening that Deputy Thompson has been placed on administrative duty indefinitely:

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday presented the Harris County District Attorney’s Office with the findings of an investigation into the May 28 altercation between John Hernandez, 24, and the husband of an off-duty Harris County sheriff’s deputy.

Hernandez died following the altercation, and the preliminary findings of an autopsy were released on Tuesday, concluding the investigation.

The deputy on Tuesday was placed on administrative duty indefinitely.

Anyone with information regarding the case, who has not already been contacted by investigators, is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Office Homicide Division at 713-274-9100.

 

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has called for the U.S. Department of Justice and the Texas Rangers to oversee the investigation. 

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