Sandra Bland Biography
Sandra Bland was a 28-year-old African-American woman who was found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas, on July 13, 2015, three days after being arrested during a traffic stop. Her death was ruled a suicide. It was followed by protests against her arrest, disputing the cause of death, and alleging racial violence against her.
Sandra Bland Story
Who was Sandra Bland?
Ms Bland had been visiting family in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Ill., over the Fourth of July holiday in 2015. Ms Bland was one of five sisters.
She was planning to begin a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M, a historically black state university located in a largely rural part of southeast Texas, when she was pulled over near the campus on July 10, 2015, after a state trooper said she failed to signal a lane change.
What happened at the traffic stop?
The trooper, Brian T. Encinia, approached Ms Bland’s car, took her information and returned to his vehicle to write out a citation. The newly surfaced video begins when the trooper walks back to her car with the ticket.
Trooper Encinia asked if Ms Bland was O.K. and told her she seemed “very irritated.” She said she was, because she was being written up simply for moving out of the trooper’s way.
The trooper then asked her to put out the cigarette she was holding, and she refused. The encounter quickly escalated from there.
The trooper ordered Ms Bland out of the car, but she refused. He shouted that he would “yank you out” and tried to do so, but she resisted. He pulled out a stun gun and yelled, “I will light you up.”
At that point, Ms Bland got out of the car. The newly released video ends there, but the encounter remained heated; before long, Ms Bland was shouting insults and profanities and the trooper had her in handcuffs.
What happened in jail?
Ms Bland was booked and placed in a housing area for women in the one-story Waller County Jail. Three days later, on July 13, a guard making rounds found her hanging in her 15-by-20-foot cell.
Waller County officials said she was found in a “semi-standing position,” with a plastic trash-can liner roped around her neck and affixed to a U-shaped metal hook overhead. Ms Bland was pronounced dead at 9:16 a.m. The authorities ruled her death a suicide.
What happened to the state trooper?
Trooper Encinia was indicted on a charge of perjury, the only criminal charge arising from the case. Grand jurors accused him of making a false statement when he claimed that his purpose in ordering Ms Bland out of her car was to more safely conduct a traffic investigation.
That charge was dismissed at the request of prosecutors, in exchange for the trooper’s promise that he would never again work in law enforcement.
Why has this case resonated for years?
Ms Bland was a vocal civil rights advocate. Two months before her death, she posted a video on Facebook in which she discussed police brutality. “Black lives matter,” Ms Bland said to the camera. “They matter. “In the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed,” she continued.
Social media attracted worldwide attention to her death, as it had after the deaths of several unarmed black men at the hands of the police. Three months earlier, Freddie Gray, an unarmed 25-year-old African-American in Baltimore, had died from injuries sustained while being transported in a police van.
Social media users adopted the hashtags #SandraBland and #SayHerName in the days after her death and created an online petition calling for the Justice Department to investigate. The case was considered a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement, intensifying outrage over incidents of mistreatment of black people by white officers.
The case also led Texas to enact a law in 2017 called the Sandra Bland Act, which requires all police officers to undergo training in de-escalation techniques; establishes protections for people in custody who have mental health or substance abuse issues; and requires that all jail deaths be investigated by independent law enforcement agencies.
An HBO documentary about the case, “Say Her Name,” was released two weeks ago, using nearly three dozen of Ms. Bland’s video blog posts to tell a richly personal story.
What will happen now?
The newly released video returns the public spotlight to the roadside confrontation between Ms Bland and Mr Encinia. Millions of online viewers had already seen the encounter from the officer’s dashcam video and in the video shot by a bystander; now it can be seen from Ms Bland’s perspective, directly facing Mr Encinia at her car window.
Ms Bland’s family members, who agreed to a reported $1.9 million settlement in a wrongful-death civil suit, are calling for a renewed investigation into her arrest and death nearly four years ago.
Sandra Bland Cause Of Death
Incarceration and death
Bland’s bail was set at $5,000. According to a statement from the jail officials, she had been given multiple opportunities to find someone who could post bond including a man she was staying within Texas who “ignored her calls”. Her bondsman also made several attempts to secure bail. Her family later stated they were attempting to secure the 10 per cent ($500) needed to secure her release.
On July 28, authorities released several hours of video showing Bland at various times during her jail stay, including arriving at the jail, having her mug shot taken, and making phone calls. They said the footage was being released to dispel rumours and conspiracy theories, including that she was dead before she arrived at the jail and that her mug shot was taken after her death.
At a news conference, Waller County Judge Trey Duhon said that such rumours have resulted in death threats against county officials: “Because of some of the things that have gone out on social media, this county has been literally attacked.” Duhon said the FBI was investigating the most serious threats.
Alexandria Pyle, an inmate held in the adjacent cell, later told the media that Bland seemed “sort of distraught”, was very emotional, and was crying frequently. Pyle, who spoke to Bland through a tiny chute, said Bland was upset that her friend had not come to bail her out. Pyle stated that she never heard any loud noise or commotion that would indicate foul play in Bland’s death.
Discovery by jailer
Police stated that at 6:30 a.m. on July 13, Bland refused breakfast, and a half-hour later told a jailer “I’m fine.”According to Captain Brian Cantrell, about an hour after stating that she was fine, Bland asked via intercom how to make a phone call.
Cantrell stated that Bland was informed she could use the phone in her cell with a PIN, but stated there was no record Bland made any call. Police stated that at 9:00 a.m., Bland was found “in a semi-standing position” hanging in her cell.
The next day, shortly after noon, police issued a statement that Bland had been found dead in her cell and that they believed she had hanged herself. On July 20, one week after Bland’s death, authorities released video from a motion-activated camera in the hallway outside Bland’s cell.
The video shows no movement in and out of the cell from 7:34 to 9:07 a.m., she is discovered by a female officer after that time, which led to resuscitation procedures being performed on Bland’s body.
Harris County autopsy
An autopsy conducted by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science concluded that Bland died through asphyxiation, and classified her death as a suicide. Police stated that Bland had used a plastic garbage bag to hang herself. The autopsy report showed Bland had multiple abrasions on the right side of her back, slight abrasions on her wrists, and 25 to 30 healing, parallel cuts on her left forearm that predated her arrest.
An initial toxicology report released by the Harris County medical examiner’s office found “a remarkably high concentration” of THC for someone who had been in jail for three days, leading to speculation that Bland may have had access to marijuana while in jail. Waller County assistant district attorney, Warren Diepraam said that it was more likely that Bland had ingested a very large amount of marijuana prior to her arrest.
A toxicologist for the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office agreed, indicating a THC level as high as Bland’s suggests she “either had access to the drug in jail or she was a consistent user of the drug and her body had accumulated THC to the point that it was slowly releasing it over time.” But he added: “I have never seen a report in the literature or from any other source of residual THC that high three days after someone stops using the drug
Sandra Bland Arrest
DPS stated that Bland was arrested because she kicked Encinia. She was charged with assaulting a public servant. DPS said that she “became argumentative and uncooperative” during the arrest. Officers took her to the Waller County Jail and placed her in a cell alone because they deemed her a high risk to others.
After her arrest, Bland told her sister that the arresting officer had pushed his knees into her back and that she feared her arm was broken. A Houston television station states it obtained a voice message left by Bland after her arrest in which she asked, “How did switching lanes with no signal turn into all of this?”
Sandra Bland Case
New video in Sandra Bland’s case brings more questions than answers for her family
The release of cell phone video taken by Sandra Bland almost four years after her death and nearly two years after the trial for the trooper who arrested Bland makes her sister question what the police have told their family. Speaking with CNN’s Don Lemon Tuesday, Bland’s sister Sharon Cooper said the lack of transparency from investigators throughout this process has been an issue.
“The revelation of this video existing to us and it not being revealed to us throughout the duration of the case at all, what that does is that puts our trust in them and their credibility on shaky ground with regard to taking what they share with us at face value,” Cooper said. Cannon Lambert, the attorney for Bland’s family in their federal civil rights lawsuit, said the existence of the video only strengthens his belief that Texas state trooper Brian Encinia had no basis to fear for his safety.
Encinia was indicted on a perjury charge and fired in 2016 after a grand jury said it didn’t believe his statement that he removed her from the car so he could conduct a safer traffic investigation. But it was dismissed in June 2017 after he agreed to surrender his law enforcement license.
Lambert says that because this video was concealed, opportunities to hold Encinia accountable were missed.
Cooper said although the family wants the case reopened she’s not sure they’ll ever get justice.
“I think what the special prosecutor stripped us off at the time…to drop the charges against Brian Encinia,” Cooper said.
Cooper emphasized that although she doesn’t think her family will get an opportunity for fairness, in this case, it’s important to keep Bland’s legacy alive and advocate for black women and girls who have suffered police brutality.
Sandra Bland Mugshot
Was Sandra Bland dead in her mugshot?
Amid fervent calls for justice in the case of Sandra Bland, who supposedly hung herself in jail after she was forcibly pulled from her car then tased for a minor traffic violation, recent speculation behind the release of her mugshot reveals a grim truth. Regardless of her whether or not she’s alive, the photo is harrowing enough–especially when you take into consideration what others have been pointing out.
— kenny bear (@Y2KENNYBEAR) July 23, 2015
In summary, the evidence amount so far to a couple of points. The first being that Sandra is lying down in her mugshot–definitely not standard procedure. This is pretty much an accepted fact, with the obvious way her hair falls back and shoulders appear straight instead of at a natural slant as well as the fact that the only surface in her cell the colour of the background is the floor.
The inconsistency of her mugshot is next. She’s in an orange jumpsuit despite only being held in prison, one that has numerous other mugshots in which other detainees are wearing their street clothes. Additionally, her official documents reveal an almost unidentifiable woman–which defeats the point of a mugshot.
To a lot of people, the lifelessness of her eyes and the previous evidence mean that Sandra Bland was dead at the time of her mugshot. While there’s actually no solid evidence pointing towards this fact, an alternative theory was proposed.
In the dashcam footage of her arrest, Sandra is threatened with a taser and tells the officers that she has epilepsy. The story would go that Sandra possibly urinated after losing control of her body, prompting them to change her into clothes other than her street clothes.
An epileptic attack would account for lifelessness of the eyes, as well as the need to take her mugshot in such an awkward manner. Epileptics online have also been speaking out, some saying that a lot of medicine for epilepsy can weaken the heart and might have caused Sandra’s death once tased.
This theory cannot account for the large time gap between her arrest and booking, nor can it explain the numerous inconsistencies and blanks in her official documents.
No matter what, the photo is still harrowing. Nothing can soften the grim hopelessness the picture exudes. It may not be likely that Sandra is dead in her photo, but that doesn’t make it any better.
I think we’re all tired of seeing her face around, not because she’s “old news” but because that wasn’t Sandra. It isn’t Sandra. She wasn’t just a mugshot, she was a life that was unjustly lost. It would do us good to remember that.
Sandra Bland Movie
Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland
Sandra Bland Documentary
Sandra Bland Lawsuit
Bland’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit, and a jury trial, in that case, was scheduled for January 2017. The family seeks unspecified damages from DPS, Encinia, Waller County, and two jailers. In September 2016, Bland’s family settled the lawsuit for $1.9 million, according to her mother. Details remained to be worked out and the agreement still awaited court approval.
Sandra Bland Settlement
Sandra Bland’s Family Reaches $1.9 Million Settlement, Lawyer Says
The family of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in a Texas jail cell in July 2015, has reached a $1.9 million settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit, according to one of the family’s lawyers.
Waller County will pay $1.8 million and the Texas Department of Public Safety will pay $100,000, attorney Tom Rhodes tells The Two-Way. He says the settlement also includes changes to procedures at the Waller County jail and de-escalation training for state troopers.
However, Waller County said terms of the deal aren’t yet final. And in an email to NPR, the Department of Public Safety said it “has not settled litigation regarding Sandra Bland, and is not a party to any agreements between the plaintiffs and Waller County defendants.”
“A potential settlement agreement has been reached but is not yet final. The parties are still working through a few details,” a lawyer for Waller County said in a statement, adding that “the parties also agreed in writing that the potential settlement was to remain confidential until finalized.”
Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, was taken into custody during a traffic stop in Prairie View, Texas. She was initially pulled over by state Trooper Brian Encinia for failing to signal a lane change.
July 10, 2015, exchange caught on dashcam video became heated, according to court documents, which allege that Encinia “threatened Bland with bodily injury by pointing the Taser at her and saying words to the effect of ‘I’ll light you up.’ ” He then took her into custody. She was found dead three days later, and officials ruled that the cause of death was suicide by hanging.
The family disputes that she committed suicide and the case has prompted national debate and protests. As The Two-Way has reported, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, told reporters that “the bottom line is: She never should have been inside of the jail, period.”
Reed-Veal filed the federal wrongful-death lawsuit in August 2015. It names the state trooper who arrested Bland, two guards at the jail, Waller County and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
As part of the settlement, Rhodes says, the Texas Department of Public Safety will institute the de-escalation training “for all current and future state troopers as it relates to roadside stops.”
And he says Waller County agreed to carry out the following policy changes:
1. “Institute agreed on changes to the bookings process.
2. “Set up telemedicine equipment so that inmates or detainees that have potential issues can be screened via telemedicine by a … mental health care or health care professional.
3. “That the jail will keep on staff 24/7 either an EMT or a nurse, which they presently don’t have.
4. “And that there will be a system set up so that jail logs can’t be falsified, that will essentially require a sensor on each cell with…a card swipe or something, and that will be registered and in the computer system, as opposed to the way they were doing it before, which was just writing in all the times that they were doing it before they even did the check.”
Additionally, the parties have agreed to cooperate “to advance legislation requiring all rural jails in Texas to have these changes made,” which would need to be passed by the legislature, Rhodes says. And “any legislation that’s drafted would be drafted in Sandra Bland’s name.”
“This has never been about the money for the family, they wanted changes made,” Rhodes says. “The settlement was an opportunity for the family to make changes that we think are really important and are going to save lives in the future so this won’t happen again.”
As we’ve reported, “no one has been indicted on criminal charges of Bland’s death or for her arrest itself. But Encinia was indicted for allegedly lying about the arrest.” Encinia, who was fired from his job by the Texas Department of Public Safety, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanour charge of perjury in March.
Sandra Bland Arresting Officer
Supporters of Sandra Bland say the video shows Texas state police officer Brian Encinia had no reason to believe she posed a threat to his life – the reason he gave for arresting her – and that he violated her rights from the first moments of their encounter.
The clip begins at the most dramatic moment of the July 2015 traffic stop near Prairie View A&M University: Encinia has opened Bland’s car door and draws his stun gun as she tries to steady her phone’s camera. The flashlights on the stun gun flick on and Encinia yells, “Get out of the car! I will light you up. Get out!”
Bland exits the car and continues to record Encinia as he orders her onto the sidewalk. The stun gun is still pointed at her and the flashlights remain on. He instructs her to get off the phone, to which Bland replies, “I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property.”
Now, through the efforts of non-profit investigative reporter Brian Collister, Sandra Bland’s family has a new truth and a renewed call for justice.
“Open up the case, period. That’s how I feel right now,” said Shantae Needham, Bland’s sister. “This is crucial to everything that he said in his report.”
The Texas Department of Public Security searched Bland’s cellphone and found the video two months after the traffic stop and her death in jail. But prosecutors cut a deal with the charged officer 9 months later, getting him to give up his career in exchange for them not taking him to court.
“It is abundantly clear that the special prosecutors had every opportunity to prosecute Encinia for what he did, the lie that he told, and they had ample evidence to establish that they lied but they chose to cut bait,” said Cannon Lambert, Sr., attorney for the Bland family.
“This not only shows that he lied but really, that he had no business even stopping her, period. And at the end of the day he needs to go to jail,” Needham said.
“They promised us they were going to prosecute him to the fullest extent possible,” Lambert said. “We told them we would rather you prosecute and lose.”
The Bland family won a $1.9 million civil award 13 months after Sandra died in the jail cell. Lambert said the new video doesn’t change that, but there are calls to reopen the criminal case from Democratic presidential contenders Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke, who both come from Texas.
Sandra Bland Autopsy
Sandra Bland’s Autopsy Details How She Died
An autopsy submitted a day after Sandra Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell on July 13 ruled her death a suicide.
Ms Bland, 28, tied a white trash bag into a knot before using it as a ligature on her neck, the report showed. The autopsy also showed that Ms Bland had 25 to 30 horizontal wounds, defined as “scarred regions of healing,” on her left forearm. She also had a “scabbed healing abrasion” on her left wrist and multiple abrasions on the right side of her back.
A county prosecutor concluded that Ms Bland, who died in a jail cell in Waller County, Tex., on July 13, had injuries that were consistent with suicide, not homicide.
Sandra Bland Funeral
Bland’s funeral was held on July 22 at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, Illinois.
Sandra Bland Traffic Stop
Sandra Bland Filmed Her Traffic Stop Arrest. Officials Never Told The Public.
The family of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old woman found hanged in a Texas jail cell three days after she was arrested during a traffic stop, is calling for her case to be reopened following the release of previously undisclosed cellphone video.
Investigators discovered the video of Bland’s 2015 traffic stop confrontation with a state trooper on her cellphone two months after her death, but never informed the public of its existence, reported the Dallas station WFAA. The outlet unearthed the video in partnership with the nonprofit Investigative Network.
The cellphone video shows Trooper Brian Encinia, who is white, angrily threatening Bland, a black woman, with a stun gun after pulling her over for failing to signal while turning.
“Get out of the car!” the officer shouts at Bland as he points a Taser toward her. “I will light you up. Get out. Now.”
Bland was stopped on July 10, 2015, while driving near Prairie View A&M University in Waller County, about 50 miles northwest of Houston. She was charged with suspicion of assaulting a public servant and jailed. Three days later, she was found dead in her cell. Her death was ruled suicide.
Police car dashcam video released early in the investigation captured much of the roadside confrontation, including the trooper’s threat to “light you up.” But the cellphone footage shows how the exchange looked from Bland’s perspective, with Encinia thrusting a stun gun in her face and threatening to drag her out her car.
In her video, Bland can be heard asking the trooper why she’s being arrested for a traffic violation and telling him she has a right to record the exchange after he orders her to put her phone down.
“You doin’ all of this for a failure to signal?” Bland asks as Encinia orders her out of the car and onto the sidewalk, continuing to point the Taser at her.
The 39-second video calls into question Encinia’s claim that he feared for his safety.
“So if the video showed that he had no basis of being in fear of his safety, and he lied about that, then you would think [prosecutors] would be using that video,” Cannon Lambert, the Bland family’s attorney, told The New York Times.
Encinia was fired from the Texas Department of Public Safety in March 2016. He was indicted by a grand jury on a perjury charge, but the charge was later dropped in exchange for Encinia agreeing never to work in law enforcement again.
Bland’s arrest and subsequent death sparked protests nationwide over police violence and the systemic oppression of communities of colour. “Say Her Name,” a reference to Bland, became a trademark chant of Black Lives Matter activists.
In response to her case, the Texas Senate passed the Sandra Bland Actin 2017, which requires de-escalation training for all police officers, mandates that county jails divert people with mental health issues to treatment and requires that independent law enforcement agencies investigate jail deaths.
As documented in HuffPost’s jail death project, which chronicled jail deaths in the year after Bland died, suicide is the leading cause of death in jails. Experts agree that suicide is highly preventable in a jail environment.
The Department of Public Service said Bland’s cellphone video was handed over to attorneys for Bland’s family earlier, along with a large batch of evidence.
Lambert said that’s not true.
“I’ve not seen it,” Lambert told WFAA. “If they had turned it over, I would have seen it.”
Shawn McDonald, a Houston lawyer and one of five special prosecutors assigned to the grand jury investigation into Bland’s case, defended his team’s performance.
He told the Times that Bland’s video was taken as evidence during the investigation and such evidence is typically not released.
Nevertheless, prosecutors made the decision to release footage from Encinia’s dashcam early in the investigation. McDonald told the Times the police video was made public “to be transparent because of the concern everyone had with her arrest and subsequent suicide.”
Shante Needham, Bland’s sister, told WFAA that the case must be reopened in light of the newly surfaced cellphone video.
“It not only shows that [Encinia] lied, but that he really had no business even stopping her, period,” Needham said. “And at the end of the day, he needs to go to jail.”
Ryan J. Reilly contributed reporting.