Nation in outrage: What happened to Sandra Bland?
Cyril Josh Barker | 7/23/2015, 10:08 a.m.
“Here in Texas, we are not afraid of ISIS,” stated the Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple, at a press conference about the death of Black, 28-year-old Sandra Bland, who died July 13 in a Texas jail. “We are afraid of the police.”
The nation remains in shock after news broke last week of Bland’s death, which is appearing more and more like yet another case of fatal police brutality.
Reports indicate that police say Bland hung herself in her cell in Waller County, Texas. Bland was stopped July 10 by a Texas state trooper for failure to use her signal while changing lanes.
Questions remain as to how and why she was detained. Dashcam video, which is suspected of being edited, shows trooper Brian Encinia asking Bland to put out her cigarette. After a verbal exchange, the trooper orders Bland of out her car. She refuses and Encinia is seen pulling her out of the vehicle and drawing his Taser.
Witnesses say the officer slammed Bland’s head to the ground and put his knee on her neck. Bland was charged with assaulting a public servant. She was placed in a cell alone.
On the morning of July 13, Bland was found in her cell hanging by a plastic garbage bag. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences ruled the death a suicide.
The FBI and Texas Department of Public Safety announced that they have launched an investigation into Bland’s death and would be investigating her death as a possible murder.
Pending the outcome of the investigation, Encinia has been assigned administrative duties.
“The Department of Public Safety has been working closely with the family of Ms. Bland during this investigation, and the department extends our sincere condolences for their tragic loss,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “It is important that her family has confidence in the efficacy of this investigation, which is why the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and district attorney originally requested investigative assistance from the Texas Rangers, and it’s also why DPS requested the FBI assist in this investigation.”
Bland’s family and friends are reportedly calling for an independent autopsy because they say it is unlikely she would have killed herself. Before her death, Bland was a civil rights activist in her native Chicago and was part of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign. She also posted videos about police brutality on YouTube.
“Based on the Sandy I knew, this is unfathomable to me,” Sharon Cooper, one of Bland’s sisters said in one report. “People who knew her, truly knew her, the depth of her, that’s unfathomable right now.”
Bland’s death has sparked nationwide outcry and protests. Locally, the organization the People’s Power Assembly held a protest demonstration Wednesday in Union Square.