by Leena Harper for CPW News Service
The Sheriff of Waller County, Texas where Sandra Bland reportedly hung herself using a trash bag when her pants or shirt would have provided a much stronger noose has been in explosive situations before.
In an October 24, 2008 Waller County election Houston Press' Paul Knight noted that Glen R. Smith had left Hempstead, Texas where he had resigned following a grenade prank that left one man footless. Knight wrote:
There's a pretty interesting election going on for boss of the sheriff's department in Waller County, a mostly rural area on the western border of Harris County. The elected candidate will be the first new sheriff in two decades, because long-time sheriff Randy Smith is retiring. The candidates are:
- R. Glen Smith, a former police chief in Hempstead, fired earlier this year after a series of unfortunate events, including an always-dangerous grenade prank that resulted in an officer's foot being blown off. Two months after the firing, he was hired by the Waller County Sheriff's Department and secured the Republican nomination for sheriff.
Maybe race isn't an issue these days, but considering a white/black cemetery debate in Waller County this summer, maybe it is. Barnett's father thinks so. "I believe there will be some voter irregularities in this campaign," Donald Barnett, who is also serving as his son's campaign manager, tells Hair Balls. "This is the worst county that I have ever been to in my life, from Alabama to Wyoming."
According to Donald, voter turn out for Jeron has been good so far, helped by the student population from Prairie View A&M, which recently resolved a voter rights lawsuit with Waller County. There have been a few vandalized Barnett campaign signs, but other than that, no real problems.
"[Racism] has not been an issue in my presence, because I carry a 44-40 [pistol] or a double-barrel shotgun," Donald says. "I'm not going to let anybody bother me."
Smith believes that his firing in Hempstead was not warranted, and he says the mayor had suggested that no action be taken by the city council. Race is a non-issue, Smith says, in the sheriff's campaign. "Most people are decent, conscientious people that are going to vote they think is the best person to be sheriff," he says. "Both of us are in it to make a difference in the county."
Minnie Poz, a consultant for the Hand Grenade Safety Society of Fort Knox, Kentucky said that "Sheriff Smith's history of juggling hand grenades, if that was what he was doing, is a marker for a deeply disturbed personality. I would want to know if Ms. Bland's return to Prairie View A&M that had a recent history of supporting Sheriff Smith's opponent, an African American from Katy who was a stellar performer without hand grenade juggling on his dossier had anything to do with the death of Ms. Bland. In the end, with the Texas Ranger's own history of race issues, it will likely have to be the FEDS.....FBI....Justice Department and other agencies that will need to investigate just what happened to Ms. Bland. It's a sad day all around," said Poz. "I know that people think that the mythic Walker: Texas Ranger is something of a national hero, but just because the Texas Prison System with its leading prison in Walker County, Texas east of Waller County is seen as a leading defender of law and order, it may be hiding deeper issues of law and order and justice for some at the expense of others. I once knew a family who was quite sure that the Texas Rangers were not interested in solving a Houston murder that they knew damn well was related to a pack of sniveling, lying drug dealers connected to the Iran-Contra case in Latin America. One Texas Ranger asked them "did you see the drugs?" When they said that they had not, even though the boat that their family member was on the night of his death was confiscated from key players in the Florida/Georgia/Texas Robert Vesco-related Operation Lone Star that fed the Contra pipeline, the Ranger dropped their case. "Justice delayed is justice denied," said Poz. Poz is also not confident that the FEDs will do the Bland case justice. "When the Harris County Crime Lab was in shambles under an African American M.E., Dr. Joyce Carter, and skin color is no defense against corruption the county brought in Michael Bromwich to investigate. He was the leading Iran-Contra investigator and firewaller in the Reagan/Bush Iran-Contra case that only netted Oliver North, John Poindexter, Casper Weinberger, Elliot Abrams and a few others," said Poz.