Sandra Bland’s family is demanding that her case be reopened after her own cellphone footage of her arrest surfaced publicly for the first time Monday, nearly four years after her death.
Bland was pulled over on July 10, 2015, for a minor traffic violation as she was driving near the campus of Prairie View A&M University, north of Houston. The encounter resulted in her arrest on suspicion of assaulting a public servant, and she was jailed. Three days later she was found hanged in her cell in what was ruled a suicide — stoking nationwide outrage about racism and police brutality.
The 39-second cellphone video, released Monday night by Dallas TV station WFAA, shows State Trooper Brian Encinia drawing his stun gun on Bland, who is black, and screaming at her to get out of the car. The officer, who is white, threatens to “light her up” and tells her to get off her phone.
“I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property,” Bland said. She was pulled over for failing to signal a lane change near the college campus, where she was starting a new job after moving to the area from Chicago. In the video, she gets out of her car and continues to record Encina.
“Put your phone down right now,” Encinia demands. Then the video ends. Dashcam footage released in 2015, however, shows where the conversation picked up. Bland, 28, was arrested and screamed off-camera that she was thrown to the ground and hit her head. Later, in an arrest report, Encinia claimed he feared for his safety. The dashcam footage was believed by Bland’s family to be the only video evidence relating to her arrest, according to WFAA.
Bland’s family, which reached a $1.9 million settlement against the state and county, told WFAA when the video was released that they should’ve seen Bland’s cell phone video years ago. The family’s lawyer, Cannon Lambert, told the New York Times the video reduced Encinia’s claim that he felt threatened by Bland. Bland’s own booking documents in 2015 contained multiple inconsistencies about whether she was suicidal or not, leading activists to believe the files were altered.
“Open up the case — period,” Shante Needham, Bland’s sister, told WFAA. “We know they have an extremely, extremely good cover-up system.”
Texas’ Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment but told WFAA the video was not withheld from Bland’s family or the public. A Houston lawyer who was involved with a team of five special prosecutors investigating Bland’s case, Shawn McDonald, told the New York Times prosecutors saw the video three years ago but disputed the family’s claims against investigators.
Encinia received one criminal charge of perjury relating to Bland’s death, since he claimed he removed her from her car for reasons relating to a traffic investigation. That charge was later dismissed in exchange for Encinia’s pledge that he’d leave the law enforcement field permanently.
Cover: FILE - In this July 21, 2015, file photo, Jeanette Williams places a bouquet of roses at a memorial for Sandra Bland near Prairie View A&M University, in Prairie View, Texas. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)