Sandra Bland drove to Texas to start a new job, so how did she end up dead in jail?

by Stephen A. Crockett Jr.

On July 9, 28-year-old Sandra Bland of Naperville, Ill., drove to Texas to start a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M. On July 10, police stopped Bland just outside the campus for allegedly failing to signal while changing lanes. Police claim that during the stop she became combative, was thrown to the ground, arrested and charged with “assault on a public servant.”

Sandra Bland
Sandra Bland

On July 13, around 9 a.m., before her family could bail her out, Bland was found dead inside a Waller County, Texas, jail cell. Police claim she died from “self-inflicted asphyxiation.” Her family and friends say that is impossible; that the woman they know, who fought strongly against police brutality and had just gotten a new job, would never have committed suicide.

“I do suspect foul play,” a friend, Cheryl Nanton, told ABC 7. “I believe that we are all 100 percent in belief that she did not do harm to herself.”

Video obtained by ABC 7 of Bland’s arrest doesn’t appear to show Bland being combative with officers but does show two officers on top of Bland, who can be heard questioning the officers’ methods of restraint.

“You just slammed my head into the ground,” Bland can be heard saying on the recording. “Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear.” As she is being escorted to the police car in handcuffs, Bland can be heard yelling, “Slammed me to the ground and everything!”

Shortly afterward, an officer can be heard telling the person recording the incident that he or she needed to leave.

Malcom Jackson, a friend of Bland’s who witnessed the encounter, told the news station that the police were forceful during the entirety of the traffic stop.

“After he pulled her out of the car, (he) forced her and tossed her to the ground, knee to the neck, and arrested her,” he said.

On July 10, police stopped Bland just outside the campus for allegedly failing to signal while changing lanes. Police claim that during the stop she became combative, was thrown to the ground, arrested and charged with “assault on a public servant.”

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith told ABC 7 that during the traffic stop, Bland became combative with the officer and was arrested and charged with assault.

The news station reports that Smith said “jailers saw Bland at 7 a.m. Monday when they gave her breakfast and again at 8 a.m. when they spoke with her over the jail intercom. Smith says she was found dead an hour later.”

On July 13, around 9 a.m., before her family could bail her out, Bland was found dead inside a Waller County, Texas, jail cell. Police claim she died from “self-inflicted asphyxiation.”

In a press release from the sheriff’s department viewed by ABC 7, authorities claim that CPR was performed shortly after Bland was found unresponsive in her cell and that she was pronounced dead moments later.

“I do not have any information that would make me think it was anything other than just a suicide,” Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told ABC 7.

Bland’s friends told the news station that the woman they know was excited about starting her new job on Wednesday, July 15, and that she would never have taken her own life.

“The Waller County Jail is trying to rule her death a suicide, and Sandy would not have taken her own life,” LaNitra Dean told ABC 7. “Sandy was strong – strong mentally and spiritually.”

On Wednesday, several of Bland’s friends protested outside the Waller County Jail, which is 50 miles south of Houston. Family members told ABC 7 that Bland’s body will be brought back to Illinois for burial as soon as authorities release it.

Bland’s friends told the news station that the woman they know was excited about starting her new job on Wednesday, July 15, and that she would never have taken her own life.

According to ABC 7, Texas state rangers are investigating Bland’s death and have not commented on the video obtained by the news station.

Until the investigation is complete, Bland’s friends and family will continue to speak out about the tragic loss they believe is highly suspicious.

“We’re very suspicious and we’re a very tight community and we’re very upset that this has happened, and it seems like there’s nothing really being done about it,” Bland’s friend LaVaughn Mosley told the news station.

Stephen Crockett Jr. is news editor at TheRoot.com, where this story first appeared. He can be reached at stephen.crockett@theroot.com.

More on traffic stops and the jail where Sandra Bland died

Excerpted from ThinkProgress.org

Though the circumstances around Bland’s arrest and death are still murky, routine traffic stops often escalate when they involve a person of color. Federal statistics show that police are 31 percent more likely to pull over a Black driver than a white driver.

Black drivers are also more likely to be pulled over for minor offenses like a broken tail light or failure to signal a turn. Sometimes, they are not even given a reason at all for the stop. These encounters may seem like minor inconveniences to white people, but for Black drivers traffic stops have the real possibility of turning deadly.

Routine traffic stops often escalate when they involve a person of color. Federal statistics show that police are 31 percent more likely to pull over a Black driver than a white driver.

Texas Rangers have taken over the investigation into Bland’s death, and #JusticeForSandy is picking up steam on social media as friends try to find out what exactly happened in the jail.

Another inmate was found hanging in the same jail in 2012 after being charged with assaulting an officer, marijuana possession and evading arrest with a vehicle.

Texas has taken some steps recently in reforming its prisons, but its jails continue to be overcrowded and rife with abuse. Neighboring Harris County is under its own investigation after a mentally disabled inmate, arrested for marijuana, was left for weeks in a rancid cell full of trash, insects, and piles of his own feces. The jail’s medical staff admitted in April they were aware of the inmate’s condition but didn’t tell anyone.

Racist sheriff

Excerpted from Heavy.com

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith was fired from his job as police chief in Hempstead, Texas, after racism allegations were made against him and four of his officers, the Houston Chronicle reported.

He was fired in 2008 and elected shortly after by Waller County to be its sheriff.

Daily Kos columnist Shaun King has also reported that there have been other suicides recently at the county jail.

Sign the petition

Sign the ColorofChange.org petition titled “Demand justice for Sandra Bland!” HERE.