HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The family of John Hernandez, a 24-year-old father who was strangled by the husband of a Harris County deputy in a Denny's parking lot, has filed a civil lawsuit against the couple for the alleged murder. The victim's parents, his wife and 3-year-old daughter have been included in the lawsuit.
Attorney Troy Chandler said he's represented crime victims for the last 15 years, and the civil case is distinct from the criminal case.
"This is just to make sure that Alexa is taken care of," Chandler said.
Deputy Chauna Thompson and her husband Terry Thompson appeared in Thursday court for the first time in relation to criminal charges against them.
According to the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office on June 6, Hernandez died of anoxic encephalopathy due to strangulation with compression and his death was ruled a homicide.
The Harris County District's Attorney's Office announced on June 8 the couple had been indicted for murder in the chocking death. The husband and wife were released on a $100,000 bond each after turning themselves into the Harris County Sheriff's Office earlier that Thursday.
The decision came after protesters took to the streets crying for #JusticeForJohnny after shocking video surfaced showing Hernandez being choked by the deputy's husband.
Investigators said the deputy’s husband 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, an HCSO deputy who was off-duty at the time.
While waiting in the parking lot, deputies said the husband 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, the deputy, who was off-duty at the time, arrived in a separate vehicle.
"One of the things in our [civil] lawsuit that has not been revealed before is that a witness, who was present at the scene, and heard said to John Hernandez as he was dying, 'shut up! We're not letting you go. You already can't breathe, so stop making noises. That indicates that [Chauna Thompson] knew what was going on," the family's attorney Randall Kallinen said. "She knew the danger, yet moved forward."
Cellphone video shows the deputy’s husband 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.
The husband would not let go. The deputy began telling the person capturing footage of the fight to stop recording her husband because it was “illegal.”
The deputy called the sheriff’s office for backup and emergency medical services before helping her husband restrain Hernandez, investigators said.
The man 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 or her husband were injured during the altercation, authorities said.
Responding officers confiscated a cell phone belonging to the victim's wife and held the mother in a deputy vehicle for about four hours, according to the family.
"The daughter is growing up without a father. He was the sole bread winner in the family," Kallinen said. " And someone is going to have to make up for that. As John, in life, protected her and now John is not here anymore. So it's going to take many people to protect the young daughter."
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.
[Raw: Video released to public shows John Hernandez being choked, beaten]