Ms. Sandra Annette Bland, 28-years-old and born in Naperville, Illinois, was a student at Prairie View A&M University located outside Hempstead, Texas in Waller County, Texas, where she was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in agriculture.
On July , 2015, she was on her way to a job interview where she was due to start a temporary job on August 3, 2015, with Prairie View as a summer program associate.
As a civil rights activist, Ms. Bland was a member of the Black Lives Matter and she had posted videos of Black citizens who met death at the hands of race soldiers.
On the afternoon of July 10, 2015, Ms. Bland crossed paths with Brian Encinia on University Drive in Prairie View, Texas, for failure to signal a lane change. As seen from events recorded by his cruiser dashcam, Encinia spoke to Ms. Bland, the interaction escalated, and he removed her from her car under threat of using a Taser on her (“I will light you up!”); she exits the car. As they moved out of view of the dashcam, he pushed her to the ground and arrested her.
Ms. Bland can be heard crying and screaming.
Charged with assaulting a public official, the alleged charge was kicking Encinia, Ms. Bland was arrested and taken to jail.
Overheard by an inmate next to her in another cell, Ms. Bland was described as distraught and worried about payment of her bail. Information on Ms. Bland’s intake form indicated that she had shown suicidal behavior, but instead of keeping Ms. Bland where they had could have constant access to watching her, they instead left her in a cell all alone.
On July 13, 2015, at 9: 00 a.m., Ms. Bland was found hanging in her jail cell by officers who stated she “in a semi-standing position” hanging in her cell. Her death was ruled a suicide due to asphyxiation per the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science. Police issued a statement that Ms. Bland was found dead in her cell, and they believed she had hanged herself. On July 20, 2015, one week after Ms. Bland’s death, police released video from a motion-activated camera stationed in the hallway outside Ms. Bland’s cell. The video has no recording from 7:34 to 9:07 a.m., but it shows Ms. Bland’s discovery by a jailer after that time.
|Full dashcam video – the second DPS upload, reportedly free of “irregularities” (Bland from 1:45)|
|Bland’s arrest – filmed by bystander|
Protests across America demanded an explanation for her death. A petition was started to look into her death, which garnered 31,000 signatures at the time of its inception.
Texas State Senator Royce West called Bland’s death suspicious, stating: “the kind of information disclosed on Bland’s intake form should have prompted jail officials to place Bland on a suicide watch, meaning a face-to-face check on her welfare every 15 minutes instead of the hourly checks normally required.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) joined Ms. Ms. Bland’s family members in demanding justice for Ms. Bland.
On July 16, 2015, the FBI and Texas DPS announced that they had launched an investigation into Ms. Bland’s death. Encinia was placed on administrative duties for having violating procedures used for traffic stops, and he was terminated in January 2016 by DPS following his indictment on perjury charges. After an arrest warrant was issued, Encinia surrendered at the Waller County Jail and was released after posting a $2,500 bond. His attorney stated that Encinia would appeal his termination. Ms. Bland’s family called for criminal charges of battery and false arrest to be brought against Encinia.
Ms. Bland’s family has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit, and a jury trial in that case is scheduled to convene in January 2017. The family is seeking unspecified damages from Texas DPS, Brian Encinia, Waller County, and two jailers.
On July 22, 2015, Ms. Sandra Bland’s funeral was held at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, Illinois.
She would have been 29-years-old on February 7, 2016.
Rest in peace, Ms. Sandra Bland.
Rest in peace.