HEMPSTEAD, Texas (AP) — Dashboard video from a trooper’s patrol car shows the traffic stop that led to the arrest of Sandra Bland, a Chicago-area woman found dead in a Texas jail last week.
Authorities say the 28-year-old black woman hanged herself, but family and friends have questioned the official account.
Bland was arrested and accused of kicking an officer who had stopped her for failing to signal a lane change.
A breakdown of the case:
Bland, who was from Naperville, Illinois, was stopped on July 10 in Waller County. She was in Texas interviewing for a job at nearby Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college from which she graduated in 2009.
The Texas Department of Public Safety says the state trooper who pulled her over planned to give her a written warning, but she became uncooperative and argumentative. She was arrested and taken to the jail in Hempstead, about 60 miles northwest of Houston.
She was still incarcerated, awaiting posting of bond, when she was found dead July 13 in her cell. A medical examiner ruled her death a suicide caused by asphyxiation.
WHAT THE VIDEO SHOWS:
After the trooper hands Bland the written warning, he remarks that she seems irritated. Bland says she was irritated because she was stopped for changing lanes to get out of the path of the trooper’s car.
The conversation turns hostile when the officer asks Bland to put out her cigarette and she asks why she can’t smoke in her own car. The trooper then orders Bland to get out of the car. She refuses, and he tells her she is under arrest.
Further refusals to get out bring a threat from the trooper to drag her out. He then pulls a stun gun and says, “I will light you up.”
When she finally steps out of the vehicle, the trooper orders her to the side of the road. There, the confrontation continues off-camera but is still audible. The two keep yelling at each other as the officer tries to put Bland in handcuffs and waits for other troopers to arrive.
Out of the camera’s view, Bland continues protesting her arrest, repeatedly using expletives and calling the officer a “pussy.” At one point, she screams that he’s about to break her wrists and complains that he knocked her head into the ground.
WHAT FAMILY AND FRIENDS SAY:
Family members and friends insist Bland was looking forward to a new job at her former school and that she gave no indication she was in such an emotional state that she would kill herself. Family attorney Cannon Lambert says some relatives believe she was killed, and they are seeking more information.
However, Bland had posted a video to her Facebook page in March, saying she was suffering from “a little bit of depression as well as PTSD,” or post-traumatic stress disorder. Friend and mentor LaVaughn Mosley of Prairie View believes Bland was just venting after a bad day.
WHAT AUTHORITIES SAY:
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis says the case is being examined as thoroughly as a murder investigation.
He said no cameras were in the jail cell where Bland was found dead. A video from a camera monitoring the hall outside her cell shows no one entered or left it between the time she last spoke with deputies through an intercom system, asking about making a phone call, and when her body was discovered about an hour later. The hard drive containing the original video has been turned over to the FBI to examine for any manipulation.
The Texas Department of Public Safety says the trooper who pulled Bland over violated traffic-stop procedures and the department’s courtesy policy. The trooper is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
The trooper said in an affidavit that after handcuffing her for becoming combative, Bland swung her elbows at him and kicked him in his right shin.
In the affidavit, trooper Brian Encinia said he then used force “to subdue Bland to the ground,” and she continued to fight back. He arrested her for assault on a public servant.
The Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating. The county district attorney has said the matter will be turned over to a grand jury, which does not meet again until August.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING:
Bland’s death comes after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects who have been killed by officers.
The case has resonated on social media, with posts questioning the official account and featuring the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland. Others referred to #SandySpeaks, the hashtag Bland used in monologues she posted on Facebook in which she talked about police brutality and said she had a calling from God to speak out against racism and injustice.
This story has been corrected to show that Mathis, not Bland, said it was not a model traffic stop.
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