Newly released eyewitness video shows the husband of a Texas sheriff’s deputy applying a chokehold to a man who later died.
Houston attorney Jack B. Carroll played the video for reporters on Monday. He said it shows an off-duty Harris County deputy and her husband attempting to restrain 24-year-old John Hernandez outside a Denny’s restaurant, Houston’s KPRC News reported.
“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.
According to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, the incident occurred on May 28, after the deputy’s husband arrived at the restaurant and saw a drunken Hernandez urinating outside. The man “verbally confronted ... Hernandez about his behavior” and the physical altercation ensued, the sheriff said during a Friday press conference.
An individual claiming to have witnessed part of the altercation told Houston’s KPRC News that the deputy’s husband sat on top of Hernandez.
“He was punching him in the face, but at this point [Hernandez] was face up,” the witness said. “It got to the point [Hernandez] was struggling to get out, and then he grabbed him [by] his neck [and] he shook 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.
“It appears to be manslaughter if not a murder,” said Randall Kallinen, the Hernandez family’s attorney. “Because it appears the guy has him in a chokehold and he chokes him, and he chokes him and eventually kills him.”
Kallinen said Hernandez’s doctor told family members he died as a result of strangulation. The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet ruled on an official cause of death.
Authorities have not identified the deputy or her husband. Gonzalez said she remains on active duty.
Kallinen is critical of the deputy’s role in the case.
“She [made] no effort whatsoever to stop the illegal choke hold which led to this killing,” the attorney said.
The sheriff’s office, in a Tuesday press release, called the case a “high priority” and said it will be referred to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office “in a timely manner.”
The district attorney’s office has declined to comment, pending the completion of the investigation.
“I can’t see this as happening,” Hernandez’ wife, Maria Toral, told KPRC News. “I feel like it’s all a bad dream and I’m just going to wake up.”