Choking Death Case Headed to Grand Jury

The Harris County sheriff says he wishes things had not played out the way they have in the case of a man choked to death by the husband of one of his deputies outside a Denny's restaurant near Sheldon.

“There is a sense of urgency and there are many things I wish could have been done on day one as well, or the second or third day,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told reporters Wednesday.  “Mr. Hernandez did not die immediately at the scene, so there was also hospitalization that occurred.”

Sheriff Gonzalez says because 24-year-old Johnny Hernandez did not die at the scene, Terry Thompson was only questioned and released.  Deputy Chauna Thompson also was questioned and released.  She has since been removed from patrol duties.

Witness told police Hernandez was drunk when confronted by Terry Thompson for urinating in the parking lot of the Denny's.  A scuffle ensued, and Hernandez was sent to a hospital in a coma.

The sheriff insisted no special treatment was granted to Thompson or his wife.  He noted the Texas Rangers and Justice Department was brought in to help with the investigation.

But Hernandez family attorney Randall Kallinen argues the sheriff's department has played favorites from the very beginning.

“The night of the incident, Maria, the wife was put in a squad car for four hours, her cell phone was taken away,” said Kallinen.  “The murderer, the killer, and the sheriff deputy wife were treated respect.”

First Assistant District Attorney Berg would not comment on cell phone video which shows Thomspon on top of Hernandez, holding him a choke hold the medical examiner recently ruled was the cause of death.

“I'm not going to comment on my reaction, this is going to be a grand jury and ultimately a jury's decision, so my personal reaction, which was the same as yours, is irrelevant,” he said.

A grand jury is expected to hear the case by the end of the week.

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