Did Police in Texas Murder Sandra Bland?

Sandra Bland Stopped by Police

On Friday, July 10th, 2015, Sandra Bland, an African-American woman was returning home from a job interview in Waller County, Texas, when she was stopped by police. According to police, she had improperly signaled a lane change. Three days later, Sandra Bland was found dead in a local jail cell. A video taken by a bystander during the arrest (included in the playlist above) shows Sandra Bland shouting that the officer had slammed her head into the ground. According to police, Sandra Bland was taken into custody and charged with “assault of a public servant.”

Sandra Bland Found Dead in Jail Cell

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith said that Bland was “found in her cell not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation.” It turns out that Smith was fired from his previous post as chief of police of Hempstead, Texas, amidst accusations of racism. Bland’s friends and family contested Smith’s account, saying the thought of her committing suicide by hanging is “unfathomable.”

Is Claim of Sandra Bland Suicide A Cover-up?

In numerous emails and phone calls to Chicago’s ABC7 I-Team, Sandra Bland’s friends and relatives say she did not commit suicide as claimed but was instead killed by police. Indeed, the video footage shows officers on top of Bland as she cries out that they had slammed her head into the ground and were being too rough with her. An officer is seen telling the person shooting the video to leave. There are many unanswered questions in this case.

  1. First, did the police target Sandra Bland because of who she was? Sandra Bland was not just your average African American woman pulled over in a routine traffic stop. Rather, Bland was outspoken about racism and police brutality.   As a friend of hers wrote in an email to an NBC station, “Sandy became very proactive in using social media to bring awareness to police brutality.” In fact, Bland was part of the ‪#‎BlackLiveMatter movement and posted videos about civil rights and racism on social media.
  2. “How did a traffic violation end in death?”, Bland’s friend LaNitra Dean said to The Huffington Post.
  3. “What happened in that jail?”
  4. Why did Waller County D.A. Elton Mathis tell news outlets, “I do not have any information that would make me think it was anything other than just a suicide,” Does it not seem strange to him that an African American activist against police brutality gets arrested and is found dead after what was supposedly a routine traffic stop?
  5. Did the DA question if it is normal for someone to commit suicide after being hired for a new job? That district attorney’s behavior falls right in line with all of the other white district attorneys across America who have concluded that there was no wrongdoing in the police killings of numerous African American men.
  6. How many “suicides” has this sheriff presided over? I saw a television interview where the sheriff said that in all the suicides he has experienced there’s always someone who claims it wasn’t suicide.
  7. When did the local texas police become aware of Sandra Bland’s social media postings? It is curious that they were able to lift a posting she made to friends and associates about PTSD and use that to justify her so-called, ‘suicide’.
Sandra Bland
Sandra Bland 2.0: Racist Policing in America

Bland’s friends say she had been with her family in suburban Chicago over the July 4th holiday. After that, she drove to Texas for a job interview at her alma mater, Prairie View A & M. Family members say she was hired for the job and was to begin working in student outreach immediately. A lawyer representing Sandra Bland’s family released a statement via the Chicago Tribune saying, “The family of Sandra Bland is confident that she was killed and did not commit suicide. As one of her friends put it, “Sandy was strong – strong mentally and spiritually.”

One of Sandra Bland’s friends, LaNitra Dean, said, “She spoke out about this type of stuff in her life, and now in her death, she’s a hashtag, That’s very hard to put that in perspective.” A Change.org petition called for an independent autopsy to be performed outside the purview of Waller County.  “Family and friends have no doubt that foul play was involved in this alleged suicide. She was a very outspoken individual who loved life, went to Church and loved her family.”

The Daily Kos reports that Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith was suspended, then fired in 2007 from a previous job as Hempstead police chief over documented cases of racism.

Police Killings

But this case goes beyond all of those other cases of police killings of an African American man. This case raises the specter of the ‘Old South’. It is hard to imagine a woman, excited about starting a new job, hanging herself with a plastic bag after a traffic violation. When a local police department can lynch an African American woman and have the unmitigated gall to claim that she hung herself with a plastic bag has got to be too much for the African American community to stand. This is the proverbial Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back.

Curated from a variety of news reports. Videos courtesy of: #sandrabland, arnecia_wallace, Tamika Mallory, http://democracynow.org
Music: Freesoundtrackmusic, “Out of Silence”, Full Score.