This story is over 5 years old.


What We Know So Far About Sandra Bland, the Black Woman Found Hanging in a Texas Jail Cell

The 28-year-old Black Lives Matter activist was reportedly about to start a new job when she got pulled over Friday near Houston.
July 16, 2015, 9:30pm

Sandra Bland had no patience for apathy. In January, the suburban Chicago native started recording videos about police brutality in a series she called Sandy Speaks. The idea was to start a dialogue about current events with her young nephews, but a few months later, she could no longer stand sifting through the usual social media fodder.

"If you're black and not posting about black unification, get the fuck off social media," read a meme-like image Bland posted on April 11. "Right now we don't care about your birthday, your club pics, your dinner plates, your ass shots, twerk videos, model shots, or any other irrelevant ass shit not mentioned."


Now that Bland has been found dead in a Texas jail cell, that urgency seems more than a little eerie.

The tragedy began to unfold on Friday afternoon, when the 28-year-old was pulled over for allegedly not using a turning signal just north of Houston. What should have been a routine encounter with a member of the Texas Department of Public Safety quickly turned violent, and a man recorded the encounter, despite an officer telling him repeatedly to leave. "Thank for recording," Bland yelled as she was led, handcuffed, to a police car. "Thank you. He slammed my head into the ground for a traffic signal."

On VICE News: Unarmed Black Man Was 'Strangled to Death' by Mississippi Cop

Although the video only shows Bland outside of her car, on the ground, and in cuffs, Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith told the Chicago Tribune that the woman was charged with assault on a public servant. The paper also reports she was put into a "tank" for women by herself.

After reportedly eating breakfast and making a phone call Monday morning, Bland was found dead around 9 AM.

So far, local law enforcement is saying her death was a suicide by hanging. The idea that she would take her own life strikes many as strange: Bland was reportedly in town to interview for a new job at Prairie View A&M University, and was set to start on August 3. Her friends are now publicly challenging the official police narrative and saying that a woman planning for the future doesn't just spontaneously decide to end her life. On Thursday, #WhatHappenedToSandyBland was trending on Twitter, with many people on the social media sites the deceased once championed now coming to her defense.

Texas Rangers are investigating the death, according to a press release from the Waller County Sheriff's Office, which notes that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Texas Attorney General, and Waller County District Attorney's Offices have also been notified.

In 2007, Sheriff Smith was suspended from his previous job in Hempstead, Texas, for alleged racism. "He got off way too lightly considering his humiliation and mistreatment of young African-American males," the president of the Waller County Leadership Council said at the time.

After completing an anger management class, things apparently did not improve at the department, as Smith was fired in 2008, but won election as Waller County Sheriff later that year.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.