Sandra Bland: Timeline Of Events Leading To Her Death In Police Custody

Wednesday’s announcement that the family of Sandra Bland is set to collect a sizeable sum comes as little consolation to those who knew and loved the young woman, who died in police custody on July 13, 2015. Although medical examiners officially classified her death as a suicide, Sandra Bland’s family and friends never believed that the 28-year-old woman actually took her own life. That the Illinois resident allegedly hung herself with a plastic bag in a Texas jail cell three days after being arrested for a minor traffic infraction remains inconceivable to many people around the world.

Sandra Bland timeline

February 7, 1987 – December, 2009: Sandra Annette Bland was born the fourth of five sisters in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois. Her family nickname was Sandy B, she was on the track team and was a member of her high school World Languages Honor Society. Bland was the only African-American cheerleader at Willowbrook High School in Villa. Shortly after graduation, Sandra relocated to Texas to attend the historically black College of Agriculture and Human Science at Prairie View A&M University about 40 miles northwest of Houston, Texas.

While working toward the agriculture and animal science degree she received in 2009, the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority sister played trombone in the university marching band and worked as a 4-H summer camp counselor. Sandra Bland’s mentor, whom she first met during her freshman year, was LaVaughn Mosley.

Bland graduated from A&M in 2009 and moved home to Chicago. She kept in touch with Mosley, who operates the senior citizens advocacy outreach program where Sandra sometimes worked as a volunteer. More than Sandra Bland’s mentor — Mosley was her friend, too. He encouraged Sandra to apply for a summer job with the A&M family and consumer sciences department, which she did in 2016.

December, 2014 – June, 2015: Sandra Bland went to see a movie called Selma. Beyond uncomfortable with what she saw and outraged by real-life reports of police violence against African-Americans around the country, Bland used Facebook as a public platform where she could express her outrage. Bland posted a video of herself in January in which she said, “I’m here to change history,” and “It’s time for me to do God’s work.” As the year progressed, Sandra posted news of police brutality and other injustices against blacks.

Spring, 2015: Bland applied for a job with an A&M extension program that assists disadvantaged locals with money management classes, parenting classes, and nutrition and wellness classes, according to The Big Story. Bland was scheduled for an in-person job interview at Prairie View A&M University on July 9.

June, 2015: Sandra Bland posted on Facebook in capital letters, “AT FIRST THEY USED A NOOSE. NOW ALL THEY DO IS SHOOT.” On June 27, Bland changed her Facebook profile pic to this:

July 8 – July 10, 2015: Bland drove all day and night from Chicago to Prairie View, Texas. She stopped by LaVaughn Mosley’s house, dropped off her luggage, took a shower then attended a job interview at the university. Despite her lack of sleep, Bland was hired and went back the next day to finalize employment paperwork. On her way back to Mosley’s house on July 10, she forgot to use a turn signal before changing lanes on University Avenue.

Texas state trooper Brian T. Encinia flashed his lights and Sandra pulled over and parked on the right side of the road. Encinia exited his car, approached Ms. Bland and ordered her to put out the cigarette she was smoking. Bland asked why she should extinguish the cigarette while she was sitting in her own car. Video evidence provided by a bystander shows Encinia screaming at Sandra, brandishing a taser and telling her that he would “light her up.”

The routine traffic stop soon escalated into a physical confrontation wherein officer Encinia used force to drag Sandra Bland out of her car. On cell phone video released by ABC 7 Eyewitness News, Bland can be heard cursing and saying to the state trooper, “You are about to break my wrist.” She also asked officer Encinia, “You doing all this for a failure to signal?” and asked if he cared that he “just slammed my head into the ground.”

Bland was charged with assault on a public servant and delivered to the Waller County Jail where her phone was confiscated and she was placed in solitary confinement. In his report, which was later deemed unreliable, officer Encinia claimed that he arrested Sandra Bland due to her combative behavior.

Sandra Bland’s final hours

During her intake interview on July 10, Bland told a corrections officer that she felt “very depressed” and had attempted suicide after an ectopic pregnancy resulted in the loss of a baby in 2014. Three hours later, she contradicted herself and told jailers she felt fine. Nonetheless, protocol demands that Bland should have been evaluated by a mental health professional, placed on suicide watch, and monitored closely while in police custody. These protocols were not followed, according to The Nation.

Others who were in Waller County Jail at the time reported that Bland spent all day Sunday sobbing uncontrollably. On Monday, she refused to eat the standard 6:30 a.m. jailhouse breakfast. By 8 a.m., Bland used the emergency intercom in her jail cell to request the use of the front desk phone to call relatives. Her request was denied more than once. Less than one hour later, the 28-year-old woman was discovered in her jail cell, her feet touching the ground and a plastic bag tied around her neck. Sandra Annette Bland was dead, and no amount of emergency rescue techniques could bring her back.

July 14 – 21, 2015: On July 14, more than 100 protestors marched from the Waller County jail to the courthouse in Hempstead, where they delivered a petition that demanded a comprehensive investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Sandra Bland. On July 21, a memorial service for Sandra was held at the Johnson Phillip All Faiths Church on Prairie View A&M’s campus.

September 4, 2015: LaVaughn Mosley posted a plea for the firing of the officer involved in the arrest that resulted in Sandra Bland’s death alone in a Texas jail cell.

The Texas Department of Public Safety determined that officer Encinia violated official traffic stop procedures as well as the department’s “courtesy policy,” explained agency spokesman Tom Vinger. Encinia was placed on administrative leave shortly after the incident. Encinia was eventually indicted for perjury and fired from the department in March, 2016.

September 14, 2016: The family of Sandra Bland was awarded nearly $2 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.

What’s changed in Texas since the death of Sandra Bland

The Sandra Bland timeline is a tragic tale, but it did result in several important changes to the Texas corrections system. For one thing, the Texas state trooper who arrested Ms. Bland was found guilty of lying under oath and subsequently fired from his position as a law enforcement officer. From this day forward, Texas jails will utilize automatic electronic sensors to make sure the well being of inmates is checked regularly. A staff nurse and/or medical technician will be on duty at every Texas jail and holding facility. In addition, jailers will be more thoroughly screened prior to employment, says CNN.

[Featured Image by Johnathan Gibby/Getty Images]

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