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Texas police officer is indicted in stun-gun incident

Texas police officer is indicted in stun-gun incident
This image made from a video shows a police encounter with City Councilman Jonathan Miller in Prairie View, Texas. (Brandon Woodson / Associated Press)

A grand jury has indicted a white police officer caught on video using a stun gun on a black city council member in Prairie View, the same southeast Texas town that drew national attention over the death of Sandra Bland in July.

Bland, who was black, was found hanging in her cell at the Waller County Jail three days after being pulled over and arrested by a state trooper.

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Her death became a high-profile exhibit in a growing national debate about racial profiling and use of force by police. The only charges brought by a grand jury were against the state trooper for misdemeanor perjury related to his testimony.

The stun-gunning of Jonathan Miller, a 26-year-old city council member, in October returned attention to Prairie View, a largely black college town about 55 miles west of Houston.

Miller was arrested in front of his apartment for allegedly trying to intervene when Prairie View police stopped to question some of his friends.

In a video of the incident, he can be seen kneeling on the ground as a taser strikes his back, causing him to scream in pain.

On Friday, a grand jury charged Officer Michael Kelley with official repression, a misdemeanor. If convicted, he could be fined as much as $4,000 and sentenced to up to a year in jail.

Kelley has been suspended without pay pending the criminal prosecution and was expected to turn himself in Monday, said Prairie View Mayor Frank Jackson.

"The Police Department is taking steps to put itself on really sure footing, and I would hope the council would support their efforts to do that," Jackson said. "I don't see our Police Department being out of compliance with standards. We're working to be sure we do the right thing."

One of half a dozen patrol officers, Kelley has worked for the department for about a year, according to the police chief, Larry Johnson.

Johnson said the department had yet to start an internal investigation into the taser incident. "We've asked for an external person, a neutral party, to do the investigation," he said.

Miller referred questions Monday to his attorneys, who did not immediately respond.

A council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, and at least one member plans to ask questions about the status of Miller's case.

Councilwoman Marie Herndon said she had been frustrated at the pace of the Police Department's internal investigation, and called the chief this week to complain.

"I'm just so glad the grand jury did their due diligence and their job," she said. "I would like to see the Prairie View police do the same thing."

Twitter @MollyHF

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