Authorities are investigating after a Black man was found dead in the same jail that once housed Sandra Bland.
Last Wednesday, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement confirming the death of 34-year-old Evan Lyndell Parker, KHOU reports.
Parker was found hanging in his cell, according to The Houston Chronicle, and was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Despite receiving treatment, the 34-year-old died from wounds sustained during the hanging after being in the hospital for two days. Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith said Parker was on suicide watch at the time of his death.
"As a sheriff in this state, our responsibility is to take care of those people in that jail,” Smith said. “Just as much as we take care of everybody else. We don’t enjoy these deals. It’s hard on the jailers. I promise you, I saw the look when I got up there that morning. I saw the look in their eyes and I know personally how they feel to lose someone.”
Parker was in custody for being suspected of killing his supervisor and wounding a co-worker at Orizon Industries, a steel fabrication plant in Brookshire, Texas, according to WTAW. He was charged with murder and aggravated assault.
Parker's death occurred a month after an inspection determined jailers were not correctly observing the incarcerated people in their care. The facility received a similar critique shortly after Bland’s death.
Jailers are supposed to observe each person face-to-face hourly to ensure their well-being, but an audit of the jail found observations only occurred every two and a half hours. Mentally ill and suicidal people, like Parker, are supposed to be checked on every half-hour. Inspectors found jailers looked in on them roughly every 74 minutes.
Bland was observed only via intercom on the day of her death.
The outrage following her death resulted in the Sandra Bland Act, which required jails to use grant money to install video surveillance and monitoring sensors to facilitate "timely in-person checks of cells."
Smith told the Houston Chronicle a computer glitch might have led to errors in the time between inspections but admitted the buck stops with the staff.
“I’m not going to sit here and make excuses,” Smith said. “It’s what it sums up to. We got a responsibility to check on them.”
Waller County Judge Trey Duhon insists the jail has made notable improvements despite the most recent tragedy.
"[Critics are] certainly entitled to their opinions but anybody who wants to come down to our jail and see all the changes and processes we've made since 2015 is welcome to do that,” he said. “The self-checks are conducted with more frequency than ever before. We have medical staff. We spent a lot of time and money improving the situation at the Waller County Jail."
Despite this, the Texas Rangers and Texas Commission on Jail Standards will reportedly be investigating Parker's death.
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