Originally published on July 23, 2015, at NationofChange.org
Pulled over for making a lane change without signaling, Sandra Bland was forcibly removed from her car and arrested because she refused to put out her cigarette. Three days later, Bland was found dead inside her jail cell hanging from a metal hook. On Tuesday, Texas officials released the dash cam video of Bland’s arrest, but some of the footage appeared to be edited and missing. To dispel any speculation that the video had been doctored, the Texas Department of Public Safety recently released the dash cam footage in its entirety.
Around 4:30 p.m. on July 10, Sandra Bland was driving through Waller County, Texas, when Officer Brian Encinia pulled her over for failing to signal during a lane change. After giving her driver’s license and insurance card to Officer Encinia, Bland remained in her vehicle while Encinia spent several minutes in his patrol car running a background check on her. After exiting his patrol car, Encinia approached Bland’s vehicle and began writing out a warning.
According to the dash cam footage, Encinia immediately observes that Bland is irritated. Bland explains that she doesn’t understand why Encinia is giving her a ticket for getting out of his way when he was speeding up behind her. When Encinia asks Bland to put out her cigarette, she responds, “I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?”
Instead of answering her question, Encinia escalated the situation and ordered Bland to step out of her car. When Bland refused to exit her vehicle, Encinia opened her door and attempted to physically remove her. Bland repeatedly asked the officer why she was being arrested, but Encinia refused to answer her.
Unable to remove Bland due to the fact that she was wearing her seatbelt, Encinia pulled out his Taser and aimed it at her face. After Encinia threatened to light her up, Bland exited her vehicle and attempted to record the encounter with her cell phone. Instead of allowing her to record the incident, Encinia ordered her to drop her phone.
After Bland placed her cell phone on the trunk of her car, Encinia cuffed her hands behind her back and yanked her back and forth across the sidewalk. Instead of explaining why he was arresting Bland, Encinia called for backup before slamming her head to the ground. When Bland told the officers that she has epilepsy, Encinia responded, “Good.”
At that moment, a bystander began recording the incident on his cell phone. When Encinia noticed the witness, the officer immediately ordered him to leave. Instead of complying with Encinia’s orders, the bystander continued recording and responded, “I’m on public property.”
As police escorted Bland to a patrol car, she thanked the bystander for recording the incident and told him that the officers had slammed her head against the ground for a simple traffic ticket. Bland was taken to the Waller County Jail and charged with assaulting an officer. Although Encinia reported that Bland had swung her elbows at him and kicked him in the shin, neither of the videos showed Bland attacking the officer.
Bland was given her own jail cell and allowed to call to her family. She asked for help covering her $5,000 bail and wanted to take legal action against Encinia. According to a Waller County sheriff’s official, Bland refused a breakfast tray at 6:30 a.m. on July 13. Over two hours later, a guard reportedly found Bland hanging in her cell with a plastic trashcan liner wrapped around her neck.
According to her autopsy, Bland’s death has been ruled a suicide from self-inflicted asphyxiation, but her family and Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis suspect Bland was the victim of foul play. Bland’s family has called for an independent autopsy, while the Texas Rangers and the FBI have launched an investigation to determine whether Bland was murdered in her jail cell. Although motion-sensitive cameras periodically recorded people walking across the hallway leading up to Bland’s door, no footage shows anyone entering or exiting Bland’s cell before her death. The FBI is investigating the hard drives to see if any officers tampered with the footage.
On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety released the dash cam footage from Encinia’s patrol car. Due to the fact that footage appeared to be missing from the video, speculation immediately arose concerning the possibility that it had been intentionally edited. The next day, Texas officials released an unedited version of the dash cam video and issued a press release.
Tom Vinger, press secretary for the Texas Department of Public Safety, stated, “Yesterday’s video was not edited. The entire video was uploaded Tuesday to include the audio and video of the conversation the trooper had by telephone with his sergeant, which occurred after the arrest. Some of the video was affected in the upload. That technical issue has now been resolved.”
After the Texas Department of Public Safety found that Encinia violated procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy, the officer has been placed on administrative duties.