Texas Deputy Facing Charges in Man’s Death at Denny’s Restaurant Is Terminated

July 23, 2017 3:14 pm Last Updated: July 23, 2017 5:29 pm

A Texas sheriff’s deputy was fired Friday for her alleged involvement in a fight that resulted in a death outside a Houston-area Denny’s restaurant.

Deputy Chauna Thompson, who is facing charges in the death of 24-year-old John Hernandez’s, has been terminated from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, according to a press release put out on Friday from the office announcing the result of an investigation of a violent altercation at a Denny’s parking lot.

“I have strong confidence in the leadership of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the rank-and-file deputies who put their lives on the line every day to protect our community,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a statement. “However, we will learn from the tragic death of John Hernandez.”

Three sergeants and one deputy received disciplinary action for their involvement in the investigation.

Thompson, who was off-duty at the time, and her husband Terry, 41, are accused of causing the death of Hernandez after a fight outside the restaurant in Sheldon, Texas. He died of a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by strangulation, a medical examiner said.

Terry Thompson confronted Hernandez, who was intoxicated, after seeing him urinate in public. He then placed him in a choke hold and Chauna Thompson arrived later to help subdue him, according to The Associated Press.

Witnesses said they asked Terry to let go of the chokehold but he refused.

Chauna Thompson’s attorney told ABC News that she and her husband had no intention of causing harm, adding that as soon as she saw that Hernandez needed help, she then performed CPR on him. “She was there for under a minute and at the very moment she realized he was having a medical issue, she told her husband to get off and then she performed CPR,” lawyer Greg Cagle was quoted as saying.

Hernandez’s family, who have been critical of the investigation into their relative’s death, were happy to hear the news.

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“When we got the news, it was great news to us. We feel like it should have happened from day one, but it is a step in the right direction,” said one of Hernandez’s cousins, who was not named, referring to the firing of Thompson, KHOU11 reported. “To get a conviction for both of them, that would be the ultimate justice,” the cousin added.

But police have said that there was nothing nefarious in Hernandez’s death.

“While our in-depth investigation uncovered no evidence of nefarious actions on the part of our on-duty personnel who worked the initial incident scene, we did find areas in which we must improve as a department,” the sheriff said, according to the station. “We will also ensure that all appropriate personnel receive the support and training they need in order to meet the high standards we set for ourselves.”

The Sheriff’s Office added:

• Deputy Chauna Thompson has been terminated. 
• One sergeant has been transferred to a new assignment, ordered to complete additional training, and suspended for five days. 
• One sergeant received a letter of documented counseling. 
• One sergeant received a letter of reprimand and was ordered to complete additional training. 
• One deputy received a one-day suspension and 30 days’ probation.