Outside grand jury room, Denny's employees describe fatal confrontation

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Since grand jury proceedings are secret, it is unknown how many witnesses testified Thursday, but two eyewitnesses to John Hernandez' death were outside the grand jury room and shared with KPRC 2 what they saw that night.

Hernandez, 24, died about three days after he was injured during the May 28 confrontation with Deputy Chauna Thompson and her husband, Terry. His death was ruled a homicide.

Video released Monday appeared to show Terry Thompson using a chokehold and lying on top of Hernandez as Chauna Thompson held down one of Hernandez’s arm.

"We kept asking him to, 'Please let go. Let go,' and they did not let him go," said Melissa Trammell, a Denny’s employee.

Trammell said she served Hernandez and his wife coffee, and when she came back to the couple’s table with cream, Hernandez was outside. She said she followed Hernandez’s wife outside and saw Terry Thompson on top of the man.

"He was turning purple, we begged this man, me and my manager begged for him to stop but he did not stop," Trammell said.

Another employee seen outside the grand jury room also shared her account.

"I go to bed thinking of it. I wake up thinking of it," said Mercedes, who asked that only her first name be used. "I just think what happened was, it was too much. It wasn't necessary to get to that point."

Sheriff's officials said Terry Thompson spotted Hernandez urinating in the parking lot and confronted him. An attorney for Chuana Thompson said Hernandez punched her husband, and she arrived a short time later.

An attorney for the Hernandez family, Randall Kallinen, said he has information that Thompson has mixed martial arts training and used a chokehold on Hernandez.

“I believe there is probable cause for some of the potential crimes,” said Kallinen.

“For what he was doing, all he had to do was call the police and he would get a fine, but he didn't have to pay with his life,” said Mercedes.

Hernandez's wife was seen outside the grand jury room, but did not answer any questions.

The grand jury will decide whether Hernandez’s death rises to the level of a crime.

Neither of the witnesses who spoke to KPRC saw what proceeded the confrontation.

KPRC 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said what happened in the moments before Hernandez was restrained will be a key point for the grand jury to consider.

“What happened before is as critical as what happens during and what happens after,” said Wice. “What we don't know, at least from the cellphone video, is what led up to that fatal encounter.”

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