The family of Sandra Bland — the Chicago woman who was found dead last month in a Texas jail cell three days after she was arrested during a traffic stop — filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Texas state trooper and others they claim were involved in her death, while acknowledging that Bland killing herself was “a possibility.”
“We, in filing this lawsuit, are looking to hold those who are responsible for the stop and Sandy’s ultimate death accountable,” attorney Cannon Lambert, who represents Bland’s family, said at a news conference Tuesday morning in Houston, Texas.
“We are very much asking that the (Department of Justice) get involved in this situation,” he said. “It is requiring a fresh set of eyes, an unbiased set of eyes.”
Lambert said the suit also seeks information that will help shed light on what led to Bland’s death.
An effort by Bland’s family to pursue an independent medical examination has been hindered by authorities in Waller County, where Bland was arrested, he said.
“We don’t have the gastric content information, we don’t have the ligature (information), we don’t have the police reports, candidly, we don’t even really know the time of death,” Lambert said. “This family is entitled to know, really, when did she pass, really, what was done in an effort to try to help her.”
Family members question the results of an autopsy that ruled her death a suicide and stated that Bland, 28, tied a trash bag into a knot and used it as a ligature on her neck.
Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said she doubts the suicide ruling but simply wants the truth.
“I am still confident in the fact that she knew enough about Jesus that she would not take herself out,” she said before acknowledging that “anything is possible.”
“If the facts show without a doubt that that was the case, I’ll have to be prepared to deal with that, but the bottom line is she never should have been inside that jail, period.”
The suit also seeks the termination by the Texas Department of Public safety of Trooper Brian Encinia, who pulled Bland over for failing to signal a lane change and arrested her after an argument stemming from her refusal to put out a cigarette.
“Mr. Encinia is still employed, and it just doesn’t make sense that the taxpayers would be paying for the type of service that he offered on the 10th of July,” Lambert said.
When asked what she would tell Encinia if the trooper was in front of her face, Bland’s sister, Sharon Cooper said: “What were you thinking and shame on you.”
Also named in the suit were Texas Department of Public Safety, the sheriff of Waller County and several of Bland’s jailers.