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Sandra Bland family reaches $1.9M settlement

Sandra Bland died in the Waller County (Texas) jail after a traffic stop. | Family photo distributed by the Associated Press

The family of Sandra Bland, a black Naperville woman who died in a Texas jail cell after a traffic stop, has reached a $1.9 million settlement in a wrongful-death suit, a lawyer for the family said Thursday.

“It’s awesome,” Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s a victory for mothers across the country.”

As part of the settlement with the Waller County Jail, authorities there have agreed to staff the facility with a 24-hour nurse or EMT, said Cannon Lambert, an attorney for Bland’s family.

Reed-veal described the money as “secondary.”

Waller County attorney Larry Simmons said Thursday that a potential settlement has been reached but isn’t final. He also said the parties involved agreed in writing that the agreement would be kept confidential until it was finalized.

Simmons said the county and lawyers for Bland’s family were “still working through a few details,” and that any settlement must be approved by the county commissioners. He also said the county “vigorously” denies any fault or wronging in Bland’s death.

Bland was pulled over by a state trooper in Prairie View, northwest of Houston, for changing lanes without signaling. The stop grew confrontational, and the trooper, Brian Encinia, ordered her from the car before forcing her to the ground. She was taken into custody on a charge of assaulting a public servant, but she was unable to immediately come up with the $500 bail, according to investigators.

Video from the traffic stop shows Encinia drawing his stun gun and telling Bland, “I will light you up!” She can later be heard off-camera screaming that he’s about to break her wrists and complaining that he knocked her head into the ground. The video provoked national outrage and drew the attention of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Encinia was later fired and charged a misdemeanor perjury charge stemming from the arrest. He has pleaded not guilty.

In an affidavit, Encinia’s said he removed Bland “from her vehicle to further conduct a safer traffic investigation,” but prosecutors said grand jurors in Waller County found that statement to be false.

Bland, who attended Prairie View A&M University just outside Hempstead, was in the process of moving to Texas from the Chicago area to take a job at the school.

Bland’s family filed suit, which accused the Waller County sheriff’s office, jail officials and the State Department of Public Safety of wrongly jailing Bland and failing to take preventive measures, despite warning signs, to guard against suicide.

Contributing: Associated Press