The death of Sandra Bland (28) three days after being pulled over for failing to signal is being investigated as possible suspicious, after authorities initially called her death on July 13 in Waller County jail an apparent suicide.
She is the latest in a number of African Americans to die in confrontations with law enforcement that have inflamed racial tensions, stretching back to the August 2014 death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety released video footage from the arresting officer’s dashcam, showing the dispute that led to the arrest.
The officer orders Bland from her car as she complains about her treatment following a stop for allegedly failing to signal a lane change, then draws what appears to be a Taser-style stun gun and pulls her out. He appears to threaten her with a Taser and says the words: “I will light you up.”
The officer leads her to the side of the road and handcuffs her. He later claims that she resisted arrest and kicked him, but the brief final altercation happens out of the shot. Media experts say abrupt breaks in the video’s continuity prove it has been edited.
Bland loudly, and profanely, protests the arrest – and accuses the officer of slamming her head into the ground – but any physical confrontation is off camera.
Many of those who saw the footage were incensed, including Texas state senator Royce West, who declared that Bland did not deserve to be taken into custody.
“After you see that video, I think you will agree with me that Sandra Bland did not deserve to be arrested,” he told reporters after meeting Bland’s family.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who also met with Bland’s relatives, spoke of a “tragedy.”
“She lost her life in the jail, and that’s what we have to look at,” he said.
Authorities say Bland was found dead, hanging by a plastic bag, three days after she was pulled over for failing a signal a lane change in her vehicle.
A resident of Illinois, she had returned to Texas for a job interview at Prairie View A&M University, from which she had graduated in 2009.
Family and friends said they had noticed nothing suicidal about her behavior, and that she was looking forward to a new job.
In an affidavit, the arresting Texas state trooper – who has since been taken off patrol duty – said Bland had kicked him, prompting him to use force to restrain her.
“I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation,” the trooper, Brian Encinia (30) alleged.
“Bland became combative and uncooperative. Numerous commands were given to Bland ordering her to exit the vehicle.”
He went on to describe how Bland swung her elbows at him, kicked him in the right shin and “continued to fight back” when she was being held to the ground.
In the video Bland is heard protesting that she has epilepsy and Encinia responds “good” while a female officer who arrives at the scene after the initial confrontation says: “You should have thought of that before resisting.”
She was arrested and jailed in lieu of a $5 000 bail after being arrested for assaulting a public servant, according to court documents also released on Tuesday.
Through their lawyer, Bland’s family – awaiting the findings of an independent autopsy – said her funeral would be held Saturday in Lisle, Illinois, west of Chicago. – AFP