HOUSTON – A Texas sheriff’s deputy who was indicted along with her husband on murder charges in the death of a man they confronted outside a restaurant has been fired, authorities announced Friday.
Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Chauna Thompson’s firing came after the conclusion of an internal affairs probe which followed complaints by the victim’s family that the investigation into the man’s death was mishandled.
The investigation reviewed the actions of Thompson who was off-duty during the May 28 Houston-area confrontation with 24-year-old John Hernandez as well as those of various sheriff’s office personnel who had responded to the scene.
“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,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a statement.
Gonzalez did not offer details on these deficiencies.
“However, we will learn from the tragic death of John Hernandez,” Gonzalez said.
Greg Cagle, Chauna Thompson’s attorney, didn’t immediately return a call Friday seeking comment. Thompson had been suspended without pay since she and her husband were indicted on June 8.
The sheriff’s office also announced that one sergeant was suspended for five days, one deputy was suspended for one day and put on probation for 30 days and two other sergeants received letters detailing the need for counseling or additional training.
Chauna Thompson, 45, and her husband Terry, 41, are accused of causing the death of Hernandez following a confrontation outside a Denny’s restaurant in Sheldon, an unincorporated community 17 miles (27 kilometers) northeast of Houston. Hernandez died at a hospital on May 31. A medical examiner ruled that he died of lack of oxygen to the brain caused by strangulation and chest compression.
Authorities allege Terry Thompson confronted an intoxicated Hernandez after seeing him urinate in public, and placed him in a chokehold. Chauna Thompson arrived later to help her husband subdue and restrain Hernandez.
Some witnesses said they pleaded with Terry Thompson to let go of Hernandez but that he refused.
Hernandez’s family has remained critical of the investigation, saying deputies at the scene didn’t interview potential witnesses and initially tried to have an assault charge filed against Hernandez.