Cell phone video showing the arrest of activist Sandra Bland has sparked accusations that a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper used excessive force during a traffic stop last Friday, alleging she failed to signal a lane change. Bland, 28, died in a Waller County Jail cell Monday, and the official police report claims death by asphyxiation.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Bland became “argumentative and uncooperative” during the traffic stop. The DPS also said the trooper who pulled over Bland — identified as Brian Encinia — “violated the department’s procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy.” Encinia arrested her on charges of assaulting a public servant. He has since been put on desk duty pending a full investigation.
Bland was an active and passionate voice against racial bias and police brutality, leading many to grow increasingly suspicious of her death. CNN reports how news of her death triggered the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland on social media. A previous Inquisitr article provided an insightful dissection on the hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody.
“If the truth was something she was speaking during the time of her arrest, if the truth was something she was speaking while she was incarcerated in jail, somebody didn’t like the truth,” said Lanitra Dean, a friend of Bland.”
Sandra can be heard on the video of her arrest (see below) alerting Officer Encinia that she was in pain after being slammed to the pavement. The aggressive officer is indifferent to her cries, concerned more with the person recording the scene, telling them to leave.
“This can’t just be something people tweet about. This woman is more than a hashtag,” said the Rev. Hannah Bonner, of St. John’s Church in downtown Houston. “There has to be some visible sign of honoring this woman’s life.”
The jail was cited for violations of minimum standards on Thursday, and according to NBC News, the sheriff’s office, while admitting problems existed with training and checking up on inmates, denied that such incompetence played a role in Sandra Bland’s death.
“At this time we have no reason to believe that either one of these deficiencies had any part on the death of Ms. Bland. We will be working on any improvements that can be made to see that this type of tragic incident never happens again,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
The jailers on duty the night Sandra died did not perform an in-person check as required. Instead, they checked on her via an intercom system. A few hours later, Bland was discovered dead with a plastic garbage bag over her head.
Sandra’s family remains convinced that she did not commit suicide. On Friday, demonstrators gathered outside the jail, joining Bland’s family from Chicago who demanded answers.
“The death of Ms. Sandra Bland will not be swept under the rug,” Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said Friday, according to The Texas Tribune. “There will be no one who is protected — if they need protecting. It will be an open and honest investigation and the truth will come out.”
The Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating Sandra Bland’s death.
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