Family Of Texas Man Killed In Denny’s Choke Case Files Lawsuit

The family of John Hernandez is suing Terry Thompson and his wife, Chauna, a local sheriff's deputy, for $1 million in damages

A video of Terry Thompson, foreground, choking John Hernandez. — Attorney Jack Carroll
Jun 13, 2017 at 2:26 PM ET

The family of a 24-year-old man who died three days after he was choked during an altercation with a sheriff’s deputy and her husband outside of a Denny’s near Houston last month filed a civil lawsuit on Monday.

The lawsuit from John Hernandez’s wife, 3-year-old daughter, and parents was filed against Terry Thompson and Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Chauna Thompson, both of whom were indicted on murder charges in Hernandez’s death last week. The Houston Chronicle reported that Terry Thompson has been charged with murder, while his wife has been hit with an accessory to murder charge. The Hernandez family is asking for $1 million in damages, according to the lawsuit.

On May 28, police said the incident began when Terry Thompson pulled up to a Denny’s in Sheldon, Texas, with his children in the car and noticed Hernandez peeing in public. According to media reports, Thompson confronted Hernandez in the parking lot, which led to a fight that lasted about 10 minutes. Soon thereafter, Chauna Thompson, an off-duty police officer, arrived in a separate car and called for assistance from both the sheriff’s office and emergency medical services, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

In a one-minute video from a witness that was released by the Hernandez family’s attorney, the 24-year-old attempted to free himself from a chokehold administered by Terry Thompson in the Denny’s parking lot. Hernandez could be seen and heard kicking and gasping for air. Authorities said that the deputy assisted her husband during the course of the chokehold, helping to restrain Hernandez. She can be seen in the video putting her right knee down on Hernandez’s left arm.

“Stay the fuck down!” Chauna Thompson yelled on the video.

“You want me to hit you again?” her husband repeatedly asked Hernandez while choking him.

Several witnesses were heard telling the person who filmed the video to stop recording, saying that it was illegal to record the fight.

Hernandez was in a coma for three days following the altercation, when he died after being removed from life support. Local medical examiners ruled that he died from strangulation and chest compressions.

It remains unclear what Chauna Thompson’s current status is with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Jason Spencer, a spokesman with the office, told the Chronicle last week that they were looking into her role in the incident.

“We’re moving forward with the investigation,” Spencer said. “It remains a top priority. We’re aware of the medical examiner’s findings today and taking that into consideration as the investigation moves forward.”

If convicted, the couple could face sentences between five years and life in prison.