'Justice for John:' Family of man who died after confrontation with deputy's husband speaks out
HOUSTON – The family of 24-year-old John Hernandez stood with more than a hundred friends, family and community leaders outside the Harris County Sheriff's Office, demanding "justice for John."
"I can't see this as happening. I feel like it's all a bad dream and I'm just going to wake up," Hernandez' wife, Maria Toral, said in tears.
She said her 3-year-old child no longer has a father. Hernandez was involved in a fight with the husband of a Harris County Sheriff's deputy. The incident was reported around 11:30 p.m. Sunday outside a Denny’s restaurant in the 17200 block of Crosby Freeway in east Harris County.
According to a spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the off-duty deputy’s husband, 41, arrived at the restaurant with his children and saw a 24-year-old man urinating outside the restaurant. The Sheriff’s Office said the man “verbally confronted the other male about his behavior, and a physical altercation ensued.”
The attorney of the Hernandez family, Randall Kallinen, is now calling for witnesses and for more video of the incident.
"We're trying to get some videos. There is one camera which somebody is claiming is not working which is kind of a usual story when the best camera in a brand new Denny's is not working," said Kallinen.
Likewise, the Harris County's sheriff is also looking for more answers -- including a motive and an exact cause of death by Harris County’s medical examiner. Sheriff Gonzalez said the goal is to tell a full story. He has called upon the Texas Rangers and the Department of Justice to oversee the investigation. Though, Gonzalez said, the investigation would be fair.
"I have full confidence in our investigators," said Gonzalez. "I believe they're doing a thorough job. I trust their skill set on this...I have full confidence that we at the Sheriff's Office are highly capable to present an independent investigation and to do it thoroughly."
The family today was not so certain about this. Kallinen said Hernandez's doctor told the family that he died from being strangled. This is not the official autopsy from the Harris County Medical Examiner. However, the family maintains that Hernandez died at the hands of the 41-year-old man.
"I want justice," said Toral. "It wasn't fair."
"We do contend that due to the fact that he was the husband of a Harris County Sheriff's deputy that, he was not arrested at the scene," said Kallinen.
"Justicia para Johnny!" the crowd chanted in Spanish.
"Brothers and sisters of every culture -- do not stand by silencing the injustice," said executive director of AFSCME 1550 Cythia Cole.
Cole said that Hernandez did not need to die. Hernandez's father, Ignacio also spoke, addressing the crowd in Spanish, also in tears. Other supporters had T-shirts, reading "Justice of John." Toral said Hernandez changed her life.
"I had a really hard time speaking out, and (Hernandez) slowly started taking me out of that shell," said Toral. "He told me, 'You have to learn how to speak up for yourself.' "
Friday, she did to hundreds of people who are now fighting to get answers.
"If they were so insulted by what he did, they should have called the police," said Toral. "He didn't have to die."
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