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Texas Authorities Investigate After Black Man Found Hanging in Same Jail Where Sandra Bland Died

The Texas Rangers and Texas Commission on Jail Standards are investigating after an accused murderer died following a failed suicide attempt inside the Waller County Jail, the same jail where 28-year-old Sandra Bland was found dead.

Evan Lyndell Parker, 34, was found hanging in the same jail cell where Bland died four years prior, the guards discovering his body on the early morning of Jan. 25, news station KHOU 11 reported. Parker, who was booked into the jail Jan. 10 for murder and aggravated assault charges, was rushed to a hospital but died from his injuries two days later on Jan. 27.

Evan Parker

Evan Parker was arrested on murder and aggravated assault warrants after fatally stabbing a co-worker on Jan. 9. (Image courtesy of KHOU 11)

“Upon discovery of the male inmate he was rushed to the hospital in Houston where he’s alive and being treated for his injuries,” the Waller County Sheriff’s Office said last Friday. “At the request of the Waller County Sheriff, the F.B.I., and the Texas Rangers have been asked to take the lead in the investigation surrounding the suicide attempt.”

“At this time there is no information to show that any procedures or guidelines were not followed by the jail staff,” the department added.

Parker was the suspect in a gruesome workplace attack in which he fatally stabbed 64-year-old Harry Parnell, a co-worker at Orizon Industries in Brookshire, Texas, and injured another man on Jan. 9. Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith said Parker was in a cell alone and didn’t show any signs of being suicidal.

The sheriff added that jail staff checked on him every 15 minutes.

“All I can say is, it’s extremely unfortunate when it happens,” Waller County Judge Trey Duhon told the Houston Chronicle. “Even with the best of precautions, it is always possible that somebody intent on taking their life could be successful. All we can do is make sure we meet guidelines and do the routine checks. At this point, it looks like that was done.”

Parker’s death has raised prior issues from the Bland case, which is eerily similar. The 28-year-old was found hanging in her cell three days after a routine traffic stop in July 2015. Her death was ruled a suicide, but her family members and activists had their doubts and accused the sheriff of a cover-up.

In 2016, the family settled a wrongful death suit with Waller County authorities and trooper Brian Encinia, who arrested Bland that day. Encinia was subsequently fired from the Texas Department of Public Safety and is barred from serving in law enforcement as a result of the incident. Bland’s sisters later filed a criminal justice reform bill in her honor.

As reported by the Houston Chronicle, the young woman’s death sparked a change in screening practices at jails across the state in an effort to prevent similar incidents. The Waller County Jail underwent a few changes of its own, which included a review of its procedures and upgrades to the facility.

However, a December 2018 inspection report of the jail found that jailers were still failing to fulfill fundamental tasks. For one, the inspection determined that jail staff weren’t conducting face-to-face checks on a regular basis, sometimes waiting as long as two hours before doing a visual check on inmates. Procedures require jailers to to check on inmates at least once per hour.

This issue also came up during the investigation into Bland’s death, after records showed  jailers had spoken with the woman via intercom, rather than having the required face-to-face interaction, nearly an hour before she was found hanging in her jail cell, according to the Chronicle.

It’s still unclear what may have lead to Parker’s suicide.

“All outside agency investigations that include the Texas Rangers and Texas Commission on Jail Standards are pending along with autopsy result,” Smith said in a statement posted to Facebook.

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