Sheriff in Texas county where Sandra Bland died wins 3rd term

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Sandra Bland | Photo courtesy of the Bland family via AP

HEMPSTEAD, Texas — Voters in a Houston-area county that drew scrutiny when Sandra Bland was found dead in jail after a contentious traffic stop will keep their sheriff.

Unofficial election results show Republican Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith won a third term Tuesday. Democrat Cedric Watson failed in his bid to become the county’s first black sheriff.

Bland was pulled over in July 2015 by a Texas trooper, Brian T. Encinia, in a videotaped stop. That led to charges of assaulting a public servant. Days later, she was found hanged in her cell. An autopsy determined Bland killed herself.

Watson said Wednesday that he believes the investigation and subsequent protests related to Bland’s death did sway some voters in his favor — but not enough. He cited low minority voter turnout, and noted that less than 1,500 of the more than 6,500 full-time students at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black university, voted in Waller County.

“The black and Hispanic communities didn’t get out and vote like they should have. So many want their voice to be heard, but they didn’t exercise that voice and that privilege of voting. They didn’t take that privilege to heart,” Watson said.

Smith did not immediately respond to a message left at his office and calls to a number listed for him went unanswered.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bland’s family was dismissed on Nov. 1 after a $1.9 million settlement was reached with the county, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the now-fired trooper.

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