HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Following an internal affairs investigation into the May 28 confrontation outside a restaurant that ended with the death of Johnny Hernandez, the woman at the center of the case, who was an off-duty deputy on that night, has been terminated.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales fired deputy Chauna Thompson on Friday July 21.
Internal affairs says it interviewed 32 people during the course of this investigation.
“It was great news to us,” said Melissa Hernandez, John Hernandez’s cousin. “We feel like it should have happened since day one but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Thompson was off duty when her husband Terry confronted 24-year-old Johnny Hernandez in the parking lot of a Denny’s in the 17700 block of the Crosby Freeway.
In criminal complaints the couple is accused of placing a strangulation hold on Hernandez and maintaining pressure by Terry Thompson placing his 300-pound body on top of him.
“When an officer is out there they are supposed to be protecting a person not committing a crime against a person,” said Hernandez’s cousin Susane Santana.
In a prepared statement the sheriff says, ”While our in-depth investigation uncovered no evidence of nefarious actions on the part of our on-duty personnel who worked the initial scene we did find areas in which we must improve as a department.”
In addition to firing Thompson the sheriff also transferred one sergeant to a new assignment suspended that sergeant for 5 days and ordered additional training.
Another sergeant received a letter of documented counseling.
A third sergeant received a letter of reprimand and ordered to complete additional training.
A deputy received a one day suspension and 30 days probation.
HCSO's full statement is below:
A comprehensive Internal Affairs investigation into the handling of the May 28 altercation that resulted in the death of John Hernandez has concluded, and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is now taking steps to improve training and revise policies to ensure that best practices are consistently followed at incident scenes.
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez ordered the Internal Affairs investigation to answer questions about how the initial investigation into the incident was handled.
The incident occurred just before midnight in the parking lot of a Denny’s restaurant in the 17700 block of the Crosby Freeway in east Harris County.
Internal Affairs interviewed 32 people during the course of the investigation.
A Harris County grand jury has indicted Terry Thompson, 41, and Chauna Thompson, 45, on murder charges, alleging they caused John Hernandez’s death by asphyxiation.
Chauna Thompson was an off-duty Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy at the time of the incident.
“I have strong confidence in the leadership of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the rank-and-file deputies who put their lives on the line every day to protect our community,” Sheriff Gonzalez said. “However, we will learn from the tragic death of John Hernandez.
While our in-depth investigation uncovered no evidence of nefarious actions on the part of our on-duty personnel who worked the initial incident scene, we did find areas in which we must improve as a department.
I will continue reviewing best practices to implement changes aimed at improving scene management and other aspects of our operation.
We will also ensure that all appropriate personnel receive the support and training they need in order to meet the high standards we set for ourselves.”
In addition to these changes, Sheriff Gonzalez has approved the following discipli nary actions for some sheriff’s office personnel:
- Deputy Chauna Thompson has been terminated.
- One sergeant has been transferred to a new assignment, ordered to complete additional training, and suspended for five days.
- One sergeant received a letter of documented counseling.
- One sergeant received a letter of reprimand and was ordered to complete additional training.
- One deputy received a one-day suspension and 30 days’ probation.
All disciplinary actions are subject to appeal to the Civil Service Commission. Because this matter is related to a pending criminal case, no additional information will be released at this time.
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