Police activity caught on cell phone video drew attention to Waller County, Texas, again, as footage of an African-American council member being subdued by a stun gun outside of his home went viral Monday. Jonathan Miller was talking to Prairie View, Texas, police officers who stopped and questioned several members of his fraternity as they left the 26-year-old city councilman’s home after a meeting Oct. 8, according to several media reports.
Footage from two officers' body cameras shows police asking Miller to keep away from the scene where they were investigating alleged drug activity, the Washington Post reported. Miller steps back, but not far enough for the officers, who approach the councilman and later use a stun gun to subdue him.
Miller was incarcerated for one night, in the same jail where a woman named Sandra Bland was found dead in a jail cell in July, days after a state police trooper arrested her at a Prairie View traffic stop. Miller has been charged with interfering with public duties and resisting arrest, according to the Prairie View Police Department. The councilman was released on bond Oct. 9.
“In that situation officers were conducting an investigation,” police Chief Larry Johnson said, according to CBS News. “They asked him, can you step away from the scene and allow them to finish what they were doing out of safety for all concerned,” Johnson said, adding the officers’ actions against Miller were not cause for concern.
“I feel like I was checking on my [fraternity] brothers and I feel like it escalated to a situation where I was [Tasered] and it shouldn’t have come that far,” Miller told CBS News, following his release from jail.
Miller is an alumnus of Prairie View A&M University, a historically black school that Bland also attended and where she intended to take a job. Bland’s death in the Waller County jail was ruled a suicide by hanging, according to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. But circumstances surrounding Bland’s death, including her exchange with the arresting officer who threatened to use a stun gun on her, have prompted her family’s request for an independent autopsy. The family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county sheriff’s office in August.
National social justice activists, including members of the Black Lives Matter movement, have alleged police brutality and racism in Bland’s and Miller’s cases. But local officials denied race played a role in either case.
Both Johnson, the Prairie View police chief, and the city’s mayor are African-American, the Washington Post reported. Eighty-eight percent of the city’s 5,500 residents are black, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.