Deadly Denny's beating case heads to grand jury, deputy pulled from patrol duty

Prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney's Office also confirmed Tuesday they will present their evidence in this case to a grand jury.

HOUSTON - A grand jury will decide if criminal charges should be filed after a man died in a fight outside Denny’s near Sheldon, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

In a statement, the DA’s spokesman said prosecutors started reviewing evidence in the death investigation of John Hernandez Tuesday evening.  They will present it to a grand jury of citizens “in the near future,” he added.

The deputy whose husband was involved in the incident has also been pulled from patrol duties while the investigation continues, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office confirms.

 

Hernandez died after being beaten and restrained last week outside a Denny's in the Sheldon area. The deputy’s husband confronted him after seeing him urinating outside the restaurant.

A lawyer for the victim's family released a new witness video Monday that shows the much larger man restraining Hernandez. 

"An anonymous concerned citizen brought me the video because he said it shows murder," Carroll said. "I concur."

An edited version of the video can be seen below. The faces have been blurred out since no charges have been filed at his time.

WARNING: The video contains graphic and violent images.

WATCH: New video released connection with fatal beating

Witnesses say Hernandez was quickly overpowered by the man, who continued to beat him then put him in a chokehold for 10 to 15 minutes. They said Hernandez was too drunk to defend himself. 

“It’s a very sad video because you’re watching a man basically being killed,” Carroll said. “He was kicking his legs in a helpless fashion, and you can hear him gargling or gurling, ‘Stop, stop.’”

Hernandez's wife and 3-year-old daughter were begging the man to stop.

“She was crying and telling (the man beating Hernandez) stop and he didn’t even stop,” Hernandez’s wife said. “I told him, 'Please stop. Don’t do that to him. He’s drunk.' He wasn’t in any position to fight. But, he didn’t have any compassion. He was really angry.”

“(You all) saw the video,” said a man who identified himself only as Hernandez’s uncle. “Why (are) we BS-ing around?  Why are we here. Why are we not getting him right now?”

Bothered by an initial incident report that labeled the man “restraining” Hernandez “the victim,” followed by nine days without an arrest, Hernandez family supporters fear the deputy’s husband is being protected.

KHOU 11 News will not report the man’s name nor show his face because he has not been charged in the case. 

However, he is the subject of the sheriff’s office investigation, according to his lawyer Scot Courtney.

Witnesses saw Hernandez attack first by punching the deputy’s husband in his eye, Courtney said. This happened the man confronted Hernandez about urinating in public, according to Courtney.

The lawyer claims his client did not intend to kill anyone. However, backlash from the public includes veiled phone and internet threats against the deputy, who is no longer on patrol.  Her agency put her on indefinite administrative duty Tuesday.

“The family certainly feels under attack and threatened,” Courtney said. “They’re certainly apprehensive with the mood of the community and responses and the call for justice so quickly before we even have all the facts.  I think it’s irresponsible.  It leads to a mob mentality.”

 

Eyewitnesses say the deputy did nothing to help and stood by while her husband continued to beat and strangle Hernandez. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said she did call for help after noticing Hernandez wasn’t breathing.

Hernandez was removed from life support three days after the incident.

An autopsy confirmed he died from strangulation and chest compressions. 

Sheriff Gonzalez said the homicide is still under investigation and stated he is asking for oversight of the HCSO investigation by the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Department of Justice.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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