HOUSTON - An attorney for the family of a man who died after a confrontation with a Harris County deputy’s husband outside a Sheldon restaurant said video released Monday showed an "illegal chokehold" was used to subdue the man.
According to a spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the off-duty deputy’s husband arrived at the restaurant the night of May 28 with his children and saw John Hernandez urinating outside the restaurant. The Sheriff’s Office said the husband confronted Hernandez about his behavior, and a fight began.
Hernandez was hospitalized after the confrontation. He died three days later after he was removed from life support.
Attorney Jack Carroll said the video was turned over to him by a concerned citizen. Carroll is now representing the man, who wishes to remain anonymous. He said the video showed the deputy’s husband lying on top of Hernandez as he gasped for air.
"You're watching a man basically being killed," Carroll said. "He was kicking his legs in a helpless fashion and you can hear him gurgling, just begging to stop. 'Stop,' (said) people in the background, family ..."
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The family’s attorney said the video showed a crime of at least manslaughter being committed.
"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 chokehold and he chokes him, and he chokes him and eventually kills him."
They said the video also showed several people demanding the citizen stop recording, and the citizen was even threatened with arrest if the recording did not stop.
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.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office released the following statement about the video released Monday:
“Harris County Sheriff’s Office investigators are aware of the cellphone video that was made public today. The investigation into the death of John Hernandez remains a high priority and will be referred to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for consideration in a timely manner.”
Family members and community activists held a rally Friday to call for justice in the case.
"What would make you silence a life? That has to be some real hatred or rage," said Cynthia Cole, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees of Texas.
Other community leaders had a problem with the apparent censorship in the video.
"You can tell from the video that we just saw that they're telling people to stop filming," said Augustin Pinedo, a civil rights representative from the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Kallinen said that shooting video in this case was perfectly fine. Cole said that the video is crucial.
"I think that there should be a respect for privacy, but had there been no video, where would we be today?" Cole said.
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