Sandra Bland is another black life lost under hinky police circumstances. The 28-year-old’s death in a Texas county jail on 13 July, three days after a routine traffic stop turned into a confrontation has attracted scepticism and disbelief from many who have been following the case.
Whilst concerned American’s continue to keep a tally of unarmed black people killed by police Sandra Bland cannot be included in that list right now because the official autopsy results state that Sandra committed suicide.
Waller County, Texas prosecutors announced at a press conference that the results show she committed suicide by hanging herself, and there were no signs of being attacked or killed.
Warren Diepraam, First Assistant District Attorney outlined the autopsy’s findings and then showed graphic photos of Bland’s body and the plastic bag, shaped like a noose, found around her neck.
The injuries found on Bland’s body are not consistent with a “violent homicide,” Diepraam said, but are consistent with a suicide. He also said Bland’s body showed lacerations and abrasions consistent with being handcuffed.
Bland also had about 30 small cuts on her wrist that were probably self-inflicted within the last few weeks, Diepraam said.
Diepraam said officials released the information because they want to be “open with the public.”
Her family has quite rightly ordered an independent autopsy, disputing the coroner’s finding.
Escalation of a routine traffic stop
There are so many questions surrounding the last few days of Sandra’s life, the first being why did a routine traffic stop result in her arrest?
Ms Bland was arrested during a traffic stop on 10 July for failing to signal a lane change. The encounter apparently escalated after she refused to put out a cigarette, and she was arrested and jailed. She was apparently still alive, three days later, when a guard offered her breakfast around 6:30am. By 9am, she was dead.
The police dashboard video of her arrest released by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) shows how a verbal argument over a traffic ticket quickly escalated, with state trooper Brian Encinia threatening to use a stun gun saying: “I will light you up”.
Bland’s family says the dash cam video was edited. Luckily a passerby also captured video of the two struggling on the side of the road, with Bland screaming that the trooper had banged her head against the ground.
Encina has been placed on administrative leave as the DPS ruled that he had merely violated the state’s “courtesy policy.” They said there was “no evidence” yet of criminal behaviour on Encina’s part. They claim there will be an internal investigation. I guess we all know what that means.
Many news sites are already engaged in framing Sandra Bland’s death as circumstances of her own making. In a classic case of blame the victim they are stressing the findings of the autopsy, highlighting the reports of marijuana found in her system and questioning her mental health history.
Thankfully there are enough people out there who want answers to hopefully drown out the victim blaming of the conservative media.
Could Sandra have already been dead when her mug shot was taken?
This second question is one I don’t even want to entertain because I want to maintain my tenuous belief that human beings are essentially good. But the evidence is fascinating enough for me to place it here.
Some Twitter users have posited the theory that Sandra Bland was already dead when her mug shot was taken. From questioning why she was not photographed in the clothes she was arrested in to how the photo looks like she was already dead on the ground, rather than standing against a wall as usually is done, social media had more questions than I could handle.
— beyza (@baeyza_) July 23, 2015
Sheriff officials said that they have released the second mugshot showing Sandra Bland from a side angle. They claim the second photo appears on her jail booking forms but the resolution isn’t very clear. I’ll say!
How did she take her own life?
This is the most important question for me.
Texas officials released footage of wardens and medical staff reacting to the discovery of Sandra Bland’s body. This seemed quite weird to me and didn’t really add anything to the conversation of how she took her own life. They just wanted to show that nobody went to her cell from the time she had breakfast and the time she was found. It means nothing as we all know video can be edited.
Officials say that Sandra was found in a “semi-standing position” with her feet on the ground. She had hung herself using a clear plastic bag tied into a slipknot.
The questions being shared on social media focus on the fact inmates go into their cells with no possessions or objects that could potentially allow them to do harm to themselves.
So a plastic bag lengthy and robust enough to hang a person should clearly not have been placed in a cell. When you look at the picture of Sandra’s cell you can see that thin, white plastic bags were used. Even if this bag could be twisted into a ligature strong and long enough to hang a person with, what the heck was it doing in her cell? Especially as officials are claiming that Sandra was suicidal and had been smoking pot either before her arrest or whilst she was in jail. At this point I have to say GTFOH!
Add to that the fact that the height of the cell was fairly low and you have a steaming pile of horseshit.
The operators of the jail have admitted to violating state rules on guard training and the monitoring of inmates.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards cited the jail for not providing documents proving that jailers in the past year had undergone training on interacting with inmates who are mentally disabled or potentially suicidal.
The citation also showed that jailers fell short by not observing inmates in person at least once every hour.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement that jailers checked on Ms Bland via intercom on one occasion rather than in person.
It seems it would be easier to admit to breaking rules than admit that Sandra Bland was murdered by one or more of their own.
Everything to live for
Sandra Bland should have been starting a community outreach job at Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater. She was in the process of relocating to Texas to start this new chapter of her life when she was pulled over by Brian Encinia.
Sandra was also an activist and spoke out openly on Facebook about the police killing black people.
It’s said that many people who committed suicide had a lot to live for and yet something in them snaps and they feel the need to end it. Whether this was true of Sandra Bland, I don’t know but I want to know. We all want to know. That being said don’t hold your breath as I sincerely doubt that this will go any further than death by suicide.