On Friday, Sandra Bland was arrested in Prairie View, Tx., following a routine traffic stop for failure to signal a lane change. Three days later, she was dead in her cell at Waller County Jail. Suicide by hanging is the official cause of death, but Bland’s family believes it was something much more sinister.
“The family of Sandra Bland is confident that she was killed and did not commit suicide,” the family’s law firm wrote in a statement released this week. “The family has retained counsel to investigate Sandy’s death.”
Bland was charged Friday with “assault of a public servant,” the Chicago Tribune reported, after she allegedly kicked the Texas State Trooper who pulled her over. A blurry bystander video of the arrest, first published by a Chicago ABC affiliate, shows what appear to be two officers on top of Bland, who can be heard protesting the nature of the arrest: “You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear. He slammed my fucking head into the ground.” Bland can also be heard thanking the bystander for recording.
Bland received breakfast in her cell at 7 a.m. on Monday, and was found dead at 9 a.m. On Tuesday, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that Bland had apparently died of self-induced asphyxiation, the Houston Chronicle reports. An autopsy by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences concluded that Bland’s death was a suicide by hanging. Representatives of the Sheriff’s office said did not specify what Bland allegedly used to hang herself, but said that she did not use shoelaces or a blanket, according to the Chronicle.
Bland, a native of the Chicago area, had recently accepted a job as a student outreach coordinator at Prairie View A&M, her alma mater, and was driving near the campus when she was pulled over.
The Texas Rangers, the investigative arm of the state’s Department of Public Safety, are investigating the circumstances of Bland’s death. Waller County prosecutor Elton Mathis told the Tribune that such an investigation is “typical protocol” following a death in custody.
Rev. James Miller, pastor at Bland’s Illinois church, told the Tribune that she was a “very, very accomplished young lady,” and a “commendable, active young adult,” adding that he hopes “the investigation is very comprehensive.”