HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas grand jury this week will review the death of a man restrained by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy and her husband during a late-night confrontation outside a Houston-area restaurant, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said her office is committed to a “fair, evidence-based process.” No charges have been filed and Ogg’s top prosecutor, First Assistant Tom Berg, said the DA’s office is “acting deliberately and not hurriedly.”
John Hernandez died three days after the May 28 confrontation with Harris County deputy Shauna Thompson and her husband, Terry.
Investigators have said the altercation started after Terry Thompson took offense when he saw an intoxicated Hernandez urinating outside the Denny’s restaurant in Sheldon, 17 miles (27.36 kilometers) northeast of Houston. They said Shauna Thompson helped her husband restrain Hernandez.
The couple stopped restraining Hernandez when they noticed he had stopped resisting, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Wednesday. A motionless Hernandez was rushed to a hospital and died there three days later.
The death has been ruled a homicide and the deputy placed on administrative leave. A medical examiner ruled that the 24-year-old Hernandez died of lack of oxygen to the brain caused by strangulation and chest compression.
Berg said in its initial account of what happened, the sheriff’s office told the district attorney’s office that Hernandez was the aggressor and did not report that he was unresponsive when taken to a hospital.
Cellphone video recorded by an unidentified bystander has been released by the bystander’s attorney and posted on local media websites. The footage shows a man lying on top of Hernandez. Jack Carroll, the attorney for the person who recorded the video, has said the man restraining Hernandez used an illegal chokehold.
Sheriff Gonzalez has asked the Texas Rangers and U.S. Department of Justice to help investigate the fatal confrontation. He said his office is “capable of presenting a fair investigation” but those agencies will “provide some oversight.”
An attorney for Hernandez’s family, Randall Kallinen, said they “simply seek justice.”
“From the very beginning, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office showed favoritism towards the killer and disrespect towards the victims in this case,” Kallinen said Wednesday.
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