On Friday, July 10, a 28-year-old Black Lives Matter activist named Sandra Bland was pulled over near Houston for failing to use her blinker. According to her version of events, she was only trying to get away from a cop who had sped up behind her and started riding her tail. When the Texas Department of Public Safety officer, Brian T. Encinia, asked why she was irritated, what should have been a relatively peaceful exchange turned into a horror show of an arrest.
Three days after Bland was taken to jail, she was found hanging dead in her cell. Although a medical examiner ruled the death a suicide, the suburban Chicago native's friends and family are crying foul. After all, the whole reason she was in the Lone Star state was for a job interview—which she reportedly nailed. Why would someone about to start a new job off herself out of nowhere? That question quickly became a social media rallying cry, with people all over the country asking #WhatHappenedToSandraBland?
Even though the Waller County Sheriff's Department released dashcam footage of the arrest Tuesday in an apparent act of transparency, doing so not put the case to rest. The Bland stop comes about two minutes into the nearly hour-long video, which begins with a far more vanilla interaction between Encinia and a college student—who, incidentally, gets off with a gentle warning.
Bland, meanwhile, immediately draws Encinia's ire by expressing frustration at the stop and refusing to put out her cigarette. After she's forced out of the car, we hear Bland claim off-camera that her wrist is being bent to the point of almost breaking and that she's had her head slammed into the ground so hard she can no longer hear. She repeatedly asks the cop if he feels like a "real man" and calls him an "asshole" and a "pussy."
What's more, the video shows Encinia violating Texas Department of Public Sagety policy, according to the the agency's director, Steven McCraw. It shows Encinia threatening to "light [Bland] up" with a Taser and responding "good" when she says she has epilepsy. Stoking the controversy, the video appears at first brush to be edited—and poorly. If the evidence was doctored and is still so fucked up, what actually happened in the uncut version? (The Texas Department of Public Safety early Wednesday told a reporter with the Texas Tribune that the video got messed up because of a technical snafu and they would re-upload it.)
But if the footage is both frustrating and heartbreaking, what happened early on Monday, July 13, is obviously worse. Officials say that Bland refused breakfast that Monday morning around 6:30 AM, asked to make a phone call, and then was found dead around 9:30. Security footage shows no one entering her cell that morning.
Meanwhile, the FBI and the Texas Rangers are still conducting their own investigations into the incident. Bland's family called for an independent autopsy that was completed on Sunday. The results have not yet been released.
Encinia sat in his cruiser mulling over what to charge Bland with once she was in custody. Despite the violent arrest, he seems to be in high spirits. "I don't have serious bodily injury, but I was kicked," he laughs, according to the dashcam audio. "I don't know if it'd be [resisting arrest] or if it'd be assault, you know?"
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