Cause of death of man who died after Denny's confrontation released; deputy involved reassigned

By Aaron Barker - Senior Web Editor , Phil Archer - Reporter

HOUSTON - The Harris County medical examiner ruled Tuesday that the death of a man who died after a confrontation with an off-duty Harris County deputy and her husband is a homicide.

John Hernandez, 24, died several days after the fight outside a Denny’s restaurant on the night of May 28.

The deputy involved in the altercation has been placed on "administrative duty indefinitely."

VIDEO: Relatives and friends of John Hernandez spoke out about his death at a press conference.

According to a spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the off-duty deputy and her husband arrived at the restaurant with their three children and saw Hernandez urinating in the restaurant parking lot. Deputies said deputy’s husband confronted Hernandez about his behavior, and a fight began.

Video shot by a witness shows the deputy and her husband pinning Hernandez to the ground. Her husband appeared to be choking Hernandez with his forearm.

Hernandez was hospitalized after the confrontation. He died three days later after he was removed from life support.

Tuesday afternoon Hernandez’s family and supporters gathered at the Denny’s demanding that D.A. Kim Ogg, and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez charge the couple with murder.

“What are you waiting for?” Hernandez's aunt Wendy Maldanado asked. “What more do you need. Do you see our pain -- our anger. This will never go away until he is arrested.”

Family friend Monica Gomez asked, “If she's an officer, she should have called for backup. She took the law in her own hands by allowing her husband to kill this young man.”

The Harris County medical examiner said an autopsy found that Hernandez died from anoxic encephalopathy because of strangulation with chest compression. Web MD describes anoxic encephalopathy as damage to the brain from a lack of oxygen.

Hernandez’s death was ruled a homicide, according to the medical examiner.

On Monday, an attorney for the Hernandez family released video that he said showed the deputy’s husband using an “illegal chokehold” being used to subdue him.

VIDEO: Attorney presents new video of confrontation

Please note this video may contain images and language that some people find unsuitable.

"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 choke hold and he chokes him, and he chokes him and eventually kills him."

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Friday that he has asked for the assistance of the Texas Rangers and the Department of Justice in investigating Hernandez’s death. Sheriff Office officials said they knew about this video then.

To date, no one has been charged with a crime in connection with Hernandez's death.

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