Sandra Bland Family's Suspicions Mount Amid Fight To Expose Death Evidence

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Above Photo: WNV/Ashoka Jegroo

Reports contradict each other and a promised video never materialized.

Sandra Bland’s family seeks proof that the 28-year-old woman killed herself in a Texas jail, as authorities say.

This undated handout photo provided by the Waller County Sheriff’s Office shows Sandra Bland. The Texas Rangers are investigating the circumstances surrounding Bland's death Monday, July 13, 2015 in a Waller County jail cell in Hempstead, Texas. The Harris County medical examiner has classified her death as suicide by hanging. She had been arrested Friday in Waller County on a charge of assaulting a public servant. (Waller County Sheriff’s Office, via AP)

This undated handout photo provided by the Waller County Sheriff’s Office shows Sandra Bland. The Texas Rangers are investigating the circumstances surrounding Bland’s death Monday, July 13, 2015 in a Waller County jail cell in Hempstead, Texas. The Harris County medical examiner has classified her death as suicide by hanging. She had been arrested Friday in Waller County on a charge of assaulting a public servant. (Waller County Sheriff’s Office, via AP)

Relatives of Sandra Bland, the jailed motorist who authorities say hanged herself in a Texas cell seven months ago, said they’re still unable to get basic information about her death from authorities.

Police files contain discrepancies, they said, and a videotape that investigators promised would show the hanging never materialized. Further, authorities haven’t returned personal items confiscated from Bland when she was booked.

medical examiner ruled that Bland, 28, committed suicide on July 13, but her family is unconvinced, their lawyer said. After all, the state trooper who roughly arrested Bland during a videotaped traffic stop has been charged with perjury.

“The family doesn’t know what to believe,” attorney Cannon Lambert said. “They’ve been told certain things that haven’t borne out to be true.”

On Thursday, lawyers for Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, will head to federal court in Houston with the hope of gaining access to records, including a Texas Rangers report on Bland’s death and an unedited jail video showing activity outside her cell. Reed-Veal is suing Trooper Brian Encinia, who arrested her, and 13 members of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office, which supervises the jail.

Police dashcam video of the arrest, showing Encina reaching into Bland’s car and threatening her with a Taser stun gun, elevated her death into a national outrage among Black Lives Matter activists and others who say she never should have been locked up. Bland was stopped for an illegal lane change, police said. An argument with the trooper escalated after he ordered her to quit smoking a cigarette inside her own car.

Bland’s mother said a Texas Rangers official promised to show her a video of the hanging, but the footage was inconclusive, according to Lambert.

“That is incorrect,” said Tom Vinger, a rangers spokesman, said in an email. “The offer was to view available video.”

Officials have released hours of video showing Bland’s booking, mental health screening and surveillance of the corridor outside her cell.

Reed-Veal said she also was promised personal items confiscated from her daughter when she entered the county jail three days before her death. So far, Lambert said, nothing has been returned.

“All of this has built an inability for her to feel comfortable or confident in what they say,” Lambert said.

Lawyers for defendants in Reed-Veal’s lawsuit didn’t respond to HuffPost’s inquiries. They have filed motions to dismiss the complaint.

The incomplete batch of documents that have been pried loose by the lawsuit have provided a more detailed picture of Bland’s death than what authorities previously disclosed.

One report, written by Waller County jail investigator Marc Langdon, gives the most detailed timeline of events after a guard discovered Bland’s body hanging from a plastic garbage bag in her cell.

There were still signs of life when guards loosened the makeshift noose from Bland’s neck, the report said. The jail nurse, using a stethoscope, heard a pulse while a sheriff’s lieutenant performed CPR, according to Langdon’s report. Minutes later, at 9:06 a.m., a paramedic declared Bland dead, according to the report.

A deputy who rushed into Bland’s cell “loosened the noose to from Inmate Bland’s neck and slid it up and over her head so she could lay Inmate Bland on the floor,” Lt. Sherry Rochen told Langdon. That would have been around 9:01 a.m., when Rochen said she began CPR, according to the report.

Langdon’s report about the noose appears to be contradicted by a report on the autopsy conducted on July 14. The autopsy report mentioned a note in the bag containing Bland’s body that said the “trash bag used as a ligature” was removed at 12:14 p.m., shortly before Bland’s body was transported to the morgue in Harris County.

The difference in time could simply be the result of sloppy paperwork.

“The hope is that they did a much more thorough investigation than what they documented,” Lambert said.

Langdon’s report reveals that Bland, using the intercom in her cell, requested permission to make free phone calls from the booking counter less than an hour before her death. Instead, a jailer told Bland to use the telephone in her cell.

That exchange was around 7:55 a.m., around the time guards should have visited her cell. The last in-person inspection took place at 7:05 a.m., but no one checked on her again until her body was found.

From the time she entered jail on July 10, 2015, Bland made seven phone calls, according to Slate. Her family members said they didn’t hear from her after July 11, Lambert said.

Lapses have already been exposed at the jail. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards said jail staff failed to check on inmates face-to-face once an hour as “required by minimum jail standards.” Staff also had not gone through yearly trainings on dealing with inmates with mental disabilities and potential suicidal behavior.

  • gininitaly

    “Trash bag used as ligature”???? Seriously.. they have trash bags that large in cells these days.. large enough to fit around someones neck to hang themselves with? I don’t believe a word of it.

    Her crime was being young, smart, proud and black.. and that’s why they killed her.

  • paul spector

    I’m a prison nurse. Plastic bags are known weapons and never kept in cells, especially isolation cells. They not only allow suicide, but can be used to kill other inmates or staff. They are used as restraints during rape, sufication devices during torture and to make “pruno”, a form of prison alcohol. They are used in excapes and for hiding drugs. Put a Coke can or rock inside and you have a formidable club like weapon.

    Most significantly, plastic bags are used by guards to make murder look like suicide. The victom is put in a choke hold till they pass out in 3-5 seconds (a “blood choke” not an airway choke that would leave marks). The bag is tied into a noose, placed on the unconscious victoms neck. The free end is tied to somthing high enough to maintain pressure, even 4 ft is usually enough. No need to lift the body up, this technique requires no strength. No signs of a struggle, totally silent, latex gloves leaving no prints. The kill is easy, certain and looks exactly like suicide.

    Even small plastic bags can work if you know how. So no, they are never supposed to be there!

  • kevinzeese

    Thanks for your insights. You may have described the murder of Sandra Bland.

  • ignasi

    A nation that executes citizens without justice is fanatically fascist

  • lynn

    Each day there are new, horrifying reports of police misconduct, but please don’t forget Sandra Bland.

  • paul spector

    Yes! You get it. Add that in Ca, I saw 88 black inmates being tortured at a time. All suffered serious injury, some died. Many were respectfull, age ranged from 18- 60+, some were collage graduates, vets, etc. It was skin color. Perhaps if they were young, cute and had an internet presence they would get the national attention they deserve. Instead they are sexually abused, pepper sprayed, isolated, beaten, and degraded for decaids. CDCR gets rich, black communities get devastated and those of us who tell about it fired and harassed.