What are the odds that two different black people would be found dead of hanging in the exact same Texas jail with no explanation nearly four years apart? How likely is it that two black people would inexplicably commit suicide at the exact same jail and no guards were there to catch it or intervene?
Hopefully, the Texas Rangers will be able to answer that as they investigate the death of 34-year-old Evan Lyndell Parker, who was found hanging in his cell Jan. 25. He was taken to a hospital and died two days later, according to KHOU.
Parker was being held at the Waller County Jail for murder and aggravated assault charges. He was arrested on Jan. 10 and charged with fatally stabbing 64-year-old Harry Parnell and critically injuring 36-year-old Jose Rangel, both of whom worked with him at Orizon Industries in Waller County, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Waller County District Attorney’s Office issued the following statement in regards to Parker’s death, according to KHOU:
There was an apparent suicide attempt at the Waller County Jail in the early morning hours of January 25, 2019. Upon discovery of the male inmate he was rushed to the hospital in Houston where he is alive and being treated for his injuries. 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.
Those procedures and guidelines include a requirement for jailers to have face-to-face observation of all prisoners at least once per hour. If a prisoner is known to be assaultive, potentially suicidal, mentally ill or has demonstrated bizarre behavior, the observations are required to be more frequent—at least once every half-hour.
According to the Chronicle, the Waller County Jail failed to meet those standards, according to a December 2018 report.
Where jailers were supposed to check on inmates at least once per hour, it was found that jail staff exceeded that time limit by almost two and a half hours. Where they were to check on inmates at least once every 30 minutes, it was found that jail staff exceeded that time by 74 minutes.
Similar findings were made after the July 2015 death of Sandra Bland in the same jail. Bland, 28, was found dead from hanging in her cell just three days after she was arrested during a traffic stop.
Her death was ruled a suicide and her family settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $1.9 million with Waller County officials and the state trooper, Brian Encinia, who arrested Bland. Encinia was subsequently fired from the Texas Department of Public Safety, and he is no longer eligible for a job in law enforcement as a result.
Speaking on Parker’s death, Waller County Judge Trey Duhon told the Chronicle: “All I can say is, it’s extremely unfortunate when it happens. 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.”