Jailers who were on duty while Sandra Bland committed suicide in her cell last year faced no criminal charges and were even quietly given new law enforcement jobs, according to a new report.
Sandra Bland, who was in jail for a routine traffic stop, shook the world when she took her own life back in July 2015, grabbing international headlines, fueling the ever-growing Black Lives Matter movement, and even becoming mentioned in the Democratic presidential debate, according to Yahoo News.
“Black lives matter,” said Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “The reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail.”
Viewed by many as a failure on the justice system’s part, media attention began turning to the two on-duty jailers, Rafael Zuniga and Michael Serges, who were supposed to be supervising Ms. Bland on the night she was found dangling from the ceiling of her jail cell from a noose she had fashioned out of plastic garbage bags.
Sandra’s log reports that the jailers checked on her that fatal night, but, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, one of the jailers later confessed that they falsified the document, really neglecting her and leaving her to her own demise.
Sandra said at her booking that she previously tried to commit suicide and suffered from depression. According to Texas state guidelines, the guards should have checked on her every 30 minutes rather than the normal hourly rounds for inmates who are not at a high suicide risk. By the jailers’ own admissions, they filled out the half hour slots and signed the bottom of the form at the beginning of their shift, not discovering Sandra’s unconscious body until approximately two hours after she hung herself.
Though giving false reports on government documents is a state crime in Texas, amounting sometimes to a felony charge, a Waller County grand jury opted not to indict the two jailers.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the two guards faced no real punitive consequences at their workplace either. Though seemingly they were relieved of duty at the Waller County sheriff’s office, within two months they were quietly transferred to the Waller Police Department.
When questioned about hiring the negligent jailers, Waller city officials including Mayor Danny Marburger, denied knowing the jailers’ connection in the Sandra Bland case when the city council voted on their appointment to the police department last August. However, Marburger added that he had no intention of firing or suspending them without an indictment, arrest, or “concrete evidence” of wrongdoing.
According to an article by the Nation, which thoroughly explores the events of Sandra’s life shedding light on why she ultimately chose to take her own, a fellow inmate in a nearby cell heard Sandra crying uncontrollably through the night and mumbling through her tears that she could not deal with a life behind bars.
Sandra reportedly was on a downward spiral from having received a college degree in animal science and landing a job with an Extension program in Prairie View, Texas to a string of traffic tickets totaling more than $1,000, of which she could not pay, a number of misdemeanor arrests for possessing small quantities of marijuana, and jail sentences which made keeping a steady job or finding new employment nearly impossible. Jail was becoming an ever increasing presence in her life.
According to family members, the earlier suicide attempt Sandra referred to in her booking, which should have corresponded with more frequent guard check-ups, was in 2014 after she suffered a miscarriage and fell into a deep depression.
The only law enforcement member to be indicted for anything corresponding to Sandra Bland’s suicide is Brian Encinia, the former state trooper who falsely testified that Sandra assaulted him during her arrest. When video evidence from his patrol car contradicted his claim, he was issued a misdemeanor perjury charge.
[Photo by Pat Sullivan/AP Images]