AUSTIN – The Travis County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of an inmate in custody, according to Kristen Dark, Sheriffs Office Sr. Public Information Officer.
Due to the recent passage of the Sandra Bland Act, TCSO has requested the Texas Rangers conduct an independent investigation.
According to reports, inmate Herman Titus was taken to the hospital in critical condition and died shortly after.
Currently, evidence collected does not suggest any foul play in his death, but an official cause of death will be determined by the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Detectives with the Internal Affairs and Major Crimes units of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office are actively investigating.
Titus was booked into the Travis County Jail on May 23, 2017 charged with Intoxication Assault and a Parole Violation.
The incident occurred the morning hours of June 19, 2017, when Titus was transported by EMS to South Austin Hospital in critical condition and later died shortly after arrival at the hospital.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the act into law a measure that seeks to address the circumstances that led to the death of Sandra Bland, a Black woman found dead in a county jail days after being arrested during a routine traffic stop.
The Sandra Bland Act mandates county jails divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment, makes it easier for defendants to receive a personal bond if they have a mental illness or intellectual disability, and requires that independent law enforcement agencies investigate jail deaths. The law takes effect Sept. 1.
The law’s namesake, a 28-year-old from Illinois, died in the Waller County Jail in 2015. Her arrest followed a lengthy argument between Bland and then-Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia, which was documented by the officer’s dashboard camera.
After Bland’s death – which was ruled a suicide – her family, activists and lawmakers swiftly criticized the rural jail’s leadership and Encinia. With a new legislative session a long way away, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards was first to offer a solution, revising the intake screening process of county jail inmates to better identify mental health issues. During the legislative session, state Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston introduced a bill named in honor of Bland. A comprehensive piece of legislation, the bill originally tackled racial profiling during traffic stops, consent searches and counseling for police officers who profiled drivers, in addition to jail reforms.
That bill didn’t move out of committee because of opposition from law enforcement groups and lawmakers concerned about unfunded mandates. The Senate version of the bill, by state Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, removed much of the language related to encounters with law enforcement (de-escalation training remained) and became a mostly mental health bill, which ultimately passed both chambers without opposition.
Most legislators support the idea that the new law increases public safety by preventing traffic stops from escalating by ensuring that all law enforcement officers receive de-escalation training for all situations as part of their basic training and continuing education.
The law goes into effect on Sept. 1, requires law enforcement cadets in Texas to be required to undergo 40 hours of mental health training. The law also mandates that county jails divert people with mental health issues to treatment.
TCSO will release the cause and manner of death as soon as such determination has been made by the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office.