HEMPSTEAD, Texas — The latest on the investigation into the recent death of a woman in a Texas jail cell (all times local):
Sandra Bland’s mother has told attendees at a memorial service that her daughter returned to Texas from her home in suburban Chicago “to stop all social injustice in the South.”
Bland was found dead July 13 in a Southeast Texas jail cell, three days after she was arrested during a traffic stop. A medical examiner called the death suicide by hanging. But family and friends have disputed that finding.
At a memorial Tuesday night on the campus of her daughter’s alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, Geneva Reed-Veal again said she doesn’t believe her daughter took her own life. She also spoke of her grief, saying, “I have a baby to put in the ground.”
The Houston Chronicle reports more than 100 people joined Bland’s family at the service.
Hope AME Church pastor Lenora Dabney said, “God is going to get greatness out of this,” referring to Bland’s death. In Dabney’s words, “There’s going to be justice in America.”
A newly released dashcam video documents how a routine traffic stop escalated into a shouting confrontation between a Texas state trooper and Sandra Bland that led to the woman’s arrest.
The video posted online Tuesday by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows the trooper stopping Bland for failure to signal a lane change. After he hands her a ticket, the trooper remarks that Bland seemed irritated. Bland says she was irritated because she was ticketed after changing lanes to get out of the path of the trooper’s car.
Words are exchanged, including the trooper’s request that Bland put out a cigarette. Bland says she can smoke in her own car. The trooper then orders her to step out of her car.
Bland refuses, and the trooper tells her she is under arrest. Further refusals brought the trooper’s threat to “drag” her from the car. He then pulls what the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed was a stun gun and says, “I will light you up.”
When she steps out, the trooper orders her to the side of the road. There, the confrontation continues off camera but is still audible.
Bland, 28, was found hanging in her jail cell three days after the incident.
A leading member of the Texas Legislature’s black caucus says he and other elected officials will push for a full, transparent investigation into the jail death of Sandra Bland.
Sen. Royce West, a veteran lawyer and Dallas Democrat, spoke at a news conference Tuesday with Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other officials following a meeting about Bland’s death.
The 28-year-old woman was found hanging in her jail cell three days after being arrested during a traffic stop July 10.
West, who is black, says it’s “important that America knows” there is transparency in the investigation and no “whitewash” of the facts. He also asked for ethnic diversity among the grand jurors selected to investigate the case.
Local District Attorney Elton Mathis reiterated that the case — like all jails deaths — was being investigated as a homicide.
Waller County’s chief administrator says he and the district attorney met privately Tuesday with family members of Sandra Bland, the Illinois woman who died in the county jail last week, and with their lawyer.
Judge Trey Duhon says District Attorney Elton Mathis told Bland’s mother and sister that while evidence indicates Bland committed suicide, the prosecutor intends to treat the death “no differently than a murder investigation” where “no stone is left unturned.”
The meeting was requested by the family’s attorney.
Duhon says Bland’s family expressed some concerns and still has many questions.
The judge, the chief administrator of the county, says it was important to tell them county officials “are completely committed to an open and transparent investigative process.”
The Waller County sheriff’s office has acknowledged in the aftermath of Sandra Bland’s death that it violated state rules dictating personnel training and the monitoring of inmates.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards last week cited the county jail for not providing documents proving that jailers in the past year had undergone training on interacting with inmates who are mentally disabled or potentially suicidal.
The citation also shows jailers fell short by not observing inmates in-person at least once every hour. The sheriff’s office in a statement Friday said jailers checked on Bland via intercom on one occasion rather than in person.
Commission Executive Director Brandon Wood has declined to say if the citation is related to Bland’s death. But sheriff’s officials mention her when explaining the violations, noting that they don’t believe “either one of these deficiencies had any part in the death of Ms. Bland.”
Authorities have said Bland committed suicide by hanging herself in her cell days after she was arrested, but her family disputes the account.
In this July 13, 2015, frame taken from video provided by the Waller County Sheriff’s Department from a motion-operated camera, emergency personnel carry a gurney near Sandra Bland’s jail cell, at the Waller County jail in Hempstead, Texas.
The Texas trooper who pulled Sandra Bland over for a failing to signal a lane change says in an affidavit that after handcuffing her for becoming combative, she swung her elbows at him and kicked him in his right shin.
In the affidavit released Tuesday, 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.
Bland was taken to the Waller County Jail on July 10. She was found dead in her cell July 13. Authorities say she hanged herself. Her family questions that finding.
Texas authorities said last week that the trooper violated procedures and the department’s courtesy policy during the traffic stop and was placed on administrative leave.
State records show Encinia has been a trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety for just over a year.
The prosecutor in a Texas county where authorities say a woman hanged herself in a jail cell is calling for a “thorough review” of the case, saying it’s too soon to rule her death a suicide.
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said at a news conference Monday that a Texas Rangers investigation into Sandra Bland’s death is “being treated just as it would be in a murder investigation.”
He says it’s too soon to “make any kind of determination” about whether her death was a suicide.
Bland’s family and friends have disputed authorities’ contention that she killed herself.
The 28-year-old Naperville, Illinois, woman was arrested July 10 after officials said she became uncooperative during a traffic stop. She was found dead in her cell three days later.
Mathis says the case will go to a grand jury once the investigation is complete.
Dashcam video of Bland’s arrest is expected to be released Tuesday.