Harris County Sheriff’s Office terminates deputy charged in fatal Denny’s beating

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HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The Harris County Sheriff’s deputy charged in the fatal beating death of a man outside a Denny’s restaurant has been fired.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has concluded a comprehensive Internal Affairs investigation into the handling of the May 28 altercation that resulted in the death of John Hernandez, and  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.

READ: Medical Examiner: Man died of ‘strangulation’ after Denny’s confrontation with deputy’s husband

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.

[Raw: Video released to public shows John Hernandez being choked, beaten]

“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.