The day before Harris County deputy Chauna Thompson and her husband Terry Thompson head back to court to faces criminal charges that they murdered 24-year-old John Hernandez at a Houston Denny’s in late May, a lawyer for the Hernandez family alleged that racism against Latinos could have been a motive.
“Since the last press conference, we have found many Facebook posts which indicate a bias or a prejudice against Hispanics that were posted by Mr. Thompson,” Randall Kallinen said at a Thursday press call with reporters that was organized by Mijente, a national activist group. “Those include several —not just the usual right-wing stuff of ‘build the border wall’ and so forth—but more harsh, I guess, one might call racist stuff, including Uncle Sam pointing his finger, like he does when he is recruiting for the military, and the caption says, ‘This finger was not made to press one to dial English.’ A very pointed slur and slam against people who speak Spanish. So what we see here are elements of bias that may be in the mind of the killer.”
Hernandez’s death received online attention in early June when a graphic cellphone video of the Thompsons fighting with Hernandez and holding him in a chokehold was shared with Texas media outlets. Initially, the Thompsons were not charged with a crime, but after the video was published and went viral, they were both charged with murder. In addition, an internal investigation into how deputies responded to the scene at Denny’s (Chauna Thompson was off-duty during the confrontation with Hernandez) was also initiated.
“In the beginning, it was kind of more of a quiet type case and nobody really knew about it, until we did start calling the media and started getting more awareness on the case, and that was when they kind of came in and heard us out,” Susana Santana, Hernandez’s cousin, said at the Thursday press call.
Attorneys for the Thompsons insist that their clients acted in self-defense, noting that they were trying to stop an intoxicated Hernandez from urinating in public, and that Hernandez was the aggressor.
It is a claim Hernandez’s supporters question.
“The killers got to go home that night and John never made it back home, so that’s something the family would like to highlight. [Hernandez’s] father has expressed that. Even today, the killers are free and roaming the streets, while obviously we don’t have John with us anymore,” Cesar Espinosa of FIEL Houston said at the press call.
Supporters for Hernandez are expected to provide online updates on Friday from the Houston courthouse via the Justice for John Hernandez Facebook page. According to the Facebook page, supporters for the Thompsons will also demonstrate outside the courthouse.
“We will continue our calm and peaceful protest as planned,” a post on the Justice for John Hernandez Facebook page said. “Court starts at 9 we will show up around 8. Please now more than ever we need all the support, so if you can join us please come out and support the Hernandez family.”