Death of man involved in Denny's fight ruled homicide, cause of death released

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017
New eyewitness video shows close view of deadly Texas Denny's fight
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RAW VIDEO: Eyewitness video shows a closer view of deadly fight outside Denny's. (WARNING: Some viewers may find this video disturbing)

SHELDON, Texas -- The death of a man who was involved in an altercation with the husband of a sheriff's deputy at a Sheldon Denny's has been ruled homicide.

On Monday, the attorney for Terry Thompson said his client did nothing illegal.

That statement was made by attorney Scot Courtney following the release of a short video shot by an eyewitness to the incident. Courtney said the video and others are not a complete picture of what occurred.

"They certainly don't show the beginning where Mr. Hernandez attacked my client. He was the initial aggressor," said Courtney. Investigators say Thompson is married to a sheriff deputy.

John Hernandez died last week following the May 28 incident at a Denny's in Sheldon.

RELATED: Man dies after fight with deputy's husband at Denny's

The medical examiner's office released Hernandez's cause of death, saying he died from anoxic encephalopathy due to strangulation with chest compression.

Investigators said Hernandez was urinating outside the restaurant and that Thompson had yelled at him to stop. It's not clear whether Thompson or Hernandez initiated the physical confrontation.

But Thompson wasn't arrested or charged. Neither was his wife -- the deputy.

Eyewitness video released to a local attorney showed a close view of the confrontation, showing Thompson on top of Hernandez.

"I was pretty shocked. It's a very sad video. You're watching a man basically being killed," Attorney Jack Carroll said. "He was kicking his legs in a helpless fashion, and you could hear him gargling just begging to stop."

Attorneys pointed out the Harris County deputy who they say appeared to be holding the victim's arm down with her knee.

"She had her right knee on his left shoulder," Carroll said.

Carroll's client, who shot the video, said he was only able to get the very end of the altercation. During the time he was recording, the witness told Carroll that the daughter of the sheriff's deputy tried to block him from getting more video. Another man was also seen trying to get in front of the witness' cellphone, asking him to stop recording.

It is important to note again that no one in this case has been charged yet, however the Harris County Sheriff's Office is asking for oversight from the Department of Justice and Texas Rangers.

Video obtained by our sister station, ABC 13, Sunday shows a different view of the fight and struggle from another eyewitness. They came forward after hearing Hernandez died from his injuries. He was held down by the deputy's spouse, according to witnesses.

"He has this dude in a choke-hold and he cannot breathe," an eyewitness said.

The video is difficult for Hernandez's family to watch. On Sunday, they held a vigil at the Denny's restaurant in his memory. Despite heavy rain, people like Gilberto Garcia brought their families to call for justice and support the Hernandez family.

"It's not fair just because he's Mexican nobody helped him. It is because the other guy was married with the (deputy)," Garcia said.

Susanna Santana, Hernandez's cousin, said the outpouring of support is touching.

"It feels good to be heard," Santana said.

State and federal authorities have been called in to help in the investigation before the district attorney decides whether to file charges.

"I think if it were the other way around, the guy would be arrested right there," Garcia added.

Hernandez's family attorney said there's enough in the video to convict Thompson for manslaughter, at the very least, if not murder.