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The family and friends of a Chicago woman have denied she died by suicide while in a Texas jail, as authorities are claiming, and instead say that foul play may have been a factor in the 28-year-old's death.
Sandra Bland died of "self-inflicted asphyxiation" Monday, authorities said, after being arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer during a routine traffic stop three days earlier. On Wednesday, a small group of friends and family gathered at the Waller County Jail to protest her death.
"I do suspect foul play," one friend, Cheryl Nanton, told ABC7 Chicago. "I believe that we are all 100 percent in belief that she did not do harm to herself."
"We're very suspicious, and we're a very tight community, and we're very upset that this has happened, and it seems like there's nothing really being done about it," another friend, LaVaughn Mosley, told the station.
Bland was reportedly in Texas to begin a new job in student outreach at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. Family members said she was set to start on July 15.
A cell phone video of Bland's arrest shot by a bystander and posted to YouTube Wednesday shows officers standing over her as she is lying on the ground yelling loudly about the police using excessive force.
"You just slammed my head into the ground," Bland can be heard saying at one point in the video. "Do you not even care about that?"
The Waller County Sheriff's office said that Bland "had been combative on the side of the road."
Texas State Rangers are investigating Bland's death, but details of how she died at the jail, which is located 50 miles north of Houston, are murky. Some friends and family said she was found hanging in her cell, but authorities have not yet confirmed what caused her death. Guards did attempt to resuscitate Bland, authorities said, but she was pronounced dead soon after.
"I do not have any information that would make me think it was anything other than just a suicide," says Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis.
"If I receive information that there's something nefarious going on, or foul play, we will certainly get to the bottom of that," he told the Chicago Tribune. "I understand there's some disbelief among some friends and family that she would do this to herself. That's why it's very important that the Texas Rangers be allowed to conduct a thorough investigation."
Another friend of Bland's, LaNitra Dean, told ABC7 that Bland "was a warm, affectionate, outspoken woman," who advocated against police brutality on social media.
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