A grand jury is hearing evidence relating to possible criminal charges in the case of a Texas man who died last week after the husband of a sheriff’s deputy placed him in a chokehold.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said the grand jury began hearing evidence on Thursday in the death of John Hernandez. Since grand jury proceedings are secret, the district attorney’s office said it’s unable to discuss what specific evidence is being presented or how many witnesses will be called to offer testimony.
“We don’t know if they will be done in a few hours or a few days,” Dane Schiller, director of communications for the district attorney’s office, told HuffPost.
The grand jury proceedings come two days after the medical examiner found that Hernandez, 24, died of lack of oxygen to the brain caused by strangulation and chest compression. His death was ruled a homicide, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Randall Kallinen, the attorney representing the Hernandez family, has said he believes felony charges – ranging from manslaughter to murder ― would be appropriate.
Hernandez died three days after the husband of a Harris County sheriff’s deputy put him in a chokehold.
According to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, the incident occurred on May 28, after the deputy’s husband arrived at a Denny’s restaurant and saw a drunken Hernandez urinating outside. The man “verbally confronted ... Hernandez about his behavior” and the physical altercation ensued, the sheriff said.
Melissa Trammell, an individual who claims to have witnessed part of the altercation, was seen leaving the grand jury room at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse on Thursday afternoon. Trammell reportedly declined to discuss her testimony, but did recount what she saw that night, according to The Houston Chronicle.
“The man was turning purple,” she said. “We begged him to get off the man and he wouldn’t ... He looked me in the face and said, ‘I’m not getting off him.’”
Houston attorney Jack B. Carroll on Monday released video that was shot by a bystander.
“You’re watching a man basically being killed,” Carroll said. “He was kicking his legs in a helpless fashion and you can hear him gurgling, just begging to stop.”
Carroll represents a man who turned the video over to him. He said the man, who wishes to remain anonymous, was threatened with arrest when he made the recording. It was unclear who threatened to arrest him.
The deputy can be seen on the video helping her husband restrain Hernandez. The couple relents once it becomes obvious he’s stopped breathing.
Gonzalez said the deputy administered CPR to Hernandez until paramedics arrived on the scene and transported him to an area hospital. Hernandez died three days later, after he was removed from life support.
Authorities have not identified the deputy or her husband, beyond confirming the deputy’s last name is Thompson. Houston’s KPRC-TV identified the deputy as Shauna Thompson and her husband as Terry Thompson.
The deputy has since been pulled from patrol duties, according to the sheriff’s office.
The death of Hernandez, who was a married father of a 3-year-old daughter, sparked outrage throughout the community.
Approximately 100 protesters marched through downtown Houston on Wednesday, demanding justice. They chanted:
“What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
Hernandez’s family reportedly helped organize the event.
“We don’t want anyone else to have to go through this,” his cousin, Yvette Escalante, told KTRK News.