Sandra Bland’s family says her spirit is ‘demanding we get to the truth’

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Her mother seemed numb. Her two sisters were stoic. Her pastor and her attorney were resolved that the truth will out.

The family of 28-year-old Sandra Bland spoke for the first time Wednesday about the controversial dashcam video of Bland’s arrest by a Texas state trooper, in which the officer can be heard telling Bland, “I will light you up,” as he held a stun gun.

Bland, of Naperville, was found hanged in her Waller County jail cell three days after she was pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. Her death comes amid heightened national scrutiny of police dealings with black suspects, after several have been killed by officers in incidents bringing criminal charges in the last year.

Her family appeared with their attorney and ministers of their church at DuPage A.M.E Church in Lisle, after flying to Texas to retrieve Bland’s body for funeral services. The funeral is scheduled at 9 a.m. Saturday at the church at 4300 Yackley Avenue in Lisle.

The family said the spirit of the late social activist is “speaking, demanding we get to the truth” of her alleged suicide.

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Sandra Bland | Provided photo

In the wake of release of the dashcam video, questions have been asked about whether it had been edited. In response to questions about gaps and overlaps in the originally posted video, authorities said the footage was not edited or manipulated, the Associated Press reported. Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said glitches occurred in the recording when it was uploaded for public viewing, and the department has since uploaded it again.

“I’m infuriated, and everybody else should be infuriated as well,” said Sharon Cooper, Bland’s older sister.

“In looking at the video — I’ve seen the video in its entirety — Sandy was pulled over for failure to indicate a proper lane change, and in looking at that, as her sister, I simply feel the officer was picking on her, point blank. I personally think that was petty. I think he pulled her over because she had an out-of-state license plate,” Cooper said.

“She was pulled over for something so insignificant, and because of an officer who felt like maybe his ego was bruised and got in the way,” she said. “Not once did he ever say he felt threatened. But if you tell me that you’re going to ‘light me up,’ I feel extremely threatened and concerned, and I’m not going to get out of my car.”

Attorney Cannon Lambert Sr. speaks at the news conference Wednesday. | Matt Marton/AP

Speaking at the news conference on Wednesday, the family’s attorney, Cannon Lambert, said the video of the July 10 arrest clearly shows inappropriate behavior by the trooper, who has been put on administrative leave.

“Right out of the gate, you can see that this could easily have been avoided. There are even more questions that have come out of Texas than when we went down there,” said Lambert, adding that the family, like several analysts and many on social media, has a lot of questions regarding the glitches in the video.

“I’m not a forensic examiner, but now I know I’m going to have to get one,” Lambert said.

The family’s comments came as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared that Bland’s family “deserves answers,” saying Texas Rangers will coordinate with the FBI in investigating Bland’s arrest and death.

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith told the AP on Wednesday that Bland told a jailer on July 10 about a previous suicide attempt. He says she provided the information while being asked a series of questions posed to each person booked into the jail in Hempstead, about 60 miles northwest of Houston.

ALSO: Dashcam video of Naperville woman’s arrest raises more questions: Mary Mitchell Sheriff: Sandra Bland told Texas jailer of prior suicide attempt Texas authorities deny editing video of Sandra Bland arrest Dashcam video: Cop tells Sandra Bland ‘I will light you up’ Texas DA says Sandra Bland case being ‘treated just as it would be a murder investigation’

The family took issue with those reports, saying there is “no evidence” of any clinical diagnosis or treatment for depression, nor past suicide attempts, and they argued that a woman who had received several job offers and was “ecstatic” about her new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, would not have killed herself.

“Why would she call her mom in excitement about those jobs and take her own life?” Lambert asked.

Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, did not speak at the news conference, nor did a second sister, Shante Needham. Both looked pained as Cooper spoke on the family’s behalf, demanding a thorough investigation by Texas officials.

“We want answers. From the petty charge to the officer asking her, and let’s be clear, that was not an instruction. He asked her, ‘Can you put your cigarette out please?’ That’s not a summons. That’s not an instruction. He asked her, and she said, ‘No, I don’t have to put my cigarette out. I’m in my own car,” Cooper said, adding that Texas officials have been cooperative, “and we hope they will continue to do so.”

Cooper said support for the family has been “awe-inspiring,” from those who knew her, from the schools she attended and from those on social media who didn’t know her personally, and she asked that people continue to keep her sister’s name prominent on social media.

“The minute you forget her name, you forget her character,” her sister said. “In the coming days, we’re going to have to lay our awesome beloved daughter, sister, friend and aunt to rest. Bringing her home was the longest flight I’ve ever had. I’m sure my mother and sisters feel the same.”

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