HOUSTON — The Harris County deputy and spouse indicted for murder in the choking death of 24-year-old John Hernandez, who passed away after being strangled outside a Denny’s restaurant, posted bond late Thursday after turning themselves in to authorities.
Their bonds were set at $100,000 each. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office released the couple’s mugshots Friday morning.
Deputy Chauna Thompson and her Terry Thompson were charged by a grand jury on Thursday following several days of citywide cries for justice after the victim's family released troubling cell phone video of the alleged attack that happened on May 28.
"We believe that this grand jury true bill is a reflection of our community's belief that a crime occurred," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said following the decision. "And that crime was murder and, it was participated by Terry Thompson and his wife, Deputy Chauna Thompson."
This comes after protesters took to the streets crying for #JusticeForJohnny after shocking video surfaced showing Hernandez being choked by the deputy's husband.
In the video, which was released Monday, Hernandez is seen struggling on the ground while being held in a chokehold by Terry Thompson. The footage was captured by a concerned citizen who recorded the incident, despite being told by the deputy to stop filming. What led up to the beating was something that could have been prevented, many said.
[Raw: Video released to public shows John Hernandez being choked, beaten]
Investigators said Terry Thompson drove up to a Denny's restaurant in the 17700 block of the Crosby Freeway on May 28 at around 11:40 p.m. His children were in the car with him as they waited to meet with his wife, who was off-duty at the time.
While waiting in the parking lot, deputies said Terry Thompson saw Hernandez urinating in public and went to verbally confront the man about his behavior. Officers said the argument escalated to a physical altercation. Moments later, Chauna Thompson arrived in a separate vehicle.
Video clearly shows Terry Thompson on top of Hernandez's back with a strong chokehold around his neck. Hernandez is seen on the video kicking his back legs, and making audible sounds of struggle, but the deputy's husband would not let go. Chauna Thompson began telling the person capturing footage of the fight to stop recording her husband because it was "illegal."
The deputy allegedly called the Sheriff’s office for backup and emergency medical services before helping her husband restrain Hernandez, investigators said.
Terry Thompson did not get off of Hernandez until he stopped moving. When the deputy realized Hernandez was not breathing, she began to perform CPR on him until paramedics arrived, witnesses said.
Neither the deputy nor her husband were injured during the altercation, authorities said.
Hernandez died May 31 after being taken off life support at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. His family made the tough decision to remove breathing tubes after it was determined by doctors that Hernandez was brain dead.
The Hernandez family was left in disbelief, and says the attack happened in front of Hernandez's young daughter.
"John's 3-year-old daughter witnessed the killing and begged the killer to stop hitting her daddy," the girl's mother, Maria Toral, said.
The video is confirmation of a cover up, according to the Hernandez family attorney.
"This is what witnesses have been saying all along," said Randall Kallinen, a civil rights lawyer. "The Harris County deputies actively tried to cover up the killing at the scene and let a killer go free because he was married to a deputy."
The released video went viral on social media, with public outcry demanding for action against the Thompsons.
Kallinen demanded the sheriff’s office allow an independent, outside investigation of the death.
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez didn't beat around the bush regarding how the internal investigation may look to the public, but added he's confident in the office's ability to be transparent, thorough and unbiased. He also assured that the deputy's husband was not receiving preferential treatment because of his wife's position.
Gonzalez was alongside Ogg when the announcement of the indictments was made.
Although Chauna Thompson did not choke Hernandez, in the eyes of the law she could be held equally responsible for his death.
“There’s negligent homicide and there’s always opportunity to find no probable cause. They elected not to do that. They charged them both with murder,” Ogg explained. "Third-party law in Texas says if one person encourages, aids, solicits, directs or attempts to aid another in the commission of a crime in attempt to commit it, then they are criminally responsible for that person's actions. We know it as the accomplice law or the law of parties."