On July 13, 2015, Sandra Bland, 28, was found dead in a Texas jail cell in what police called “self-inflicted asphyxiation.” Today, her family and the world are asking what happened.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Naperville, Illinois, woman was arrested on Friday in Waller County, near Houston, following a traffic stop for not using her signal to change lanes. State troopers allege that she was about to be given a warning, but she kicked the officer and was charged with “assault of a public servant.” Bland was in Texas to start a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.
Police report that she was alone in a cell, and an hour after she requested a phone call on Monday morning, she was found unresponsive and paramedics were unable to revive her. The sheriff says there was no camera in the cell. An autopsy the next day ruled her death suicide through hanging, according to Tricia Bentley, spokesperson for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, which performed the autopsy.
But her family and friends don’t believe the police department’s version of events. They held a press conference today with their attorney, Cannon Lambert, advocating for continued investigation. “This family is looking to understand what happened. This is concerning to them,” Lambert said. “They feel like that’s the case, that she was killed.”
Bland’s friend Cheryl Nanton agreed in an interview with ABC-7 Chicago, “I do suspect there was foul play, and I believe that we all are 100 percent in the belief that she did not do harm to herself.”
The family is set to go to Texas this week. The Texas Rangers, Texas’ Public Safety Department’s investigation unit, has been deployed to investigate, and spokesperson Erik Burse said that it could be weeks or months before they reach a conclusion. The Internet has taken up the cause of applying pressure, with #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland trending on social media.
In the meantime, a video has surfaced of what a bystander says is Bland’s arrest. In it, two troopers are holding a woman down on the ground. The woman can be heard saying, “I can’t even feel my arm. You just slammed my head into the ground, you do not care about that. I can’t even hear. He slammed my f-----g head into the ground. All of this for a traffic signal. I swear to God, all of this for a traffic signal.” After being put into the police car, she says to the person recording the video: “Thank you for recording. Thank you. For a traffic signal. Slammed me into the ground and everything.”
Watch the video below.