Advertisement
VICE News

Sandra Bland's Arresting Officer Details Alleged Assault Before Her Arrest

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis also said the case needs a thorough and exhaustive review due to the questions being raised about the incident.

by VICE News
Jul 21 2015, 7:35pm

Photo via YouTube

Update: The Texas Department of Public Safety on Tuesday evening released dash cam video of the July 10 traffic stop that led to Sandra Bland's arrest.  

A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper said that Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old Illinois woman who died in a Waller County jail cell July 13 after being arrested during a routine traffic stop, swung her elbows at him before kicking him in the shin, according to a testimony released today.

The statement details Trooper Brian Encinia's account of the events on July 10 that led to Bland's arrest on the grounds of assaulting a public servant. According to his newly released testimony, Encinia pulled Bland over after she failed to use her signal when switching lanes.

Encinia said Bland, from Naperville, Illinois, acted "combative and uncooperative" after he asked her to step out of the vehicle, and that she was pulled out of the car and the officer handcuffed her. Bland reportedly became increasingly combative, eventually throwing elbows and kicking his leg.

Related: 'Get Out of the Car': Sandra Bland's Family Attorney Reveals New Details of Arrest

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.

Up until now, the account of events that led to her arrest and detainment had come only from media outlets and interviews with her lawyer, which had also said Waller County police pulled Bland over after she failed to use her turn signal when switching lanes. Dash cam footage released by her family's attorney shows her refusing the officer's request to put out her cigarette.

"Why do I have to put out a cigarette when I'm in my own car?" Bland asked, according to an account that attorney Cannon Lambert gave to NBC News. "And that seemed to irritate him to the point where he said, 'Get out of the car,'" Lambert said.

On July 13, three days after her arrest, Bland was found dead in her jail cell, in what authorities said was suicide by asphyxiation. The local district attorney said that Bland had evidently hung herself using a trash bag. Her family has requested an independent autopsy and Justice Department probe, and disagrees with the notion that she would kill herself.

Speaking during a press conference on Monday evening, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said the case needs a thorough and exhaustive review because of the questions being raised about the incident.

"This investigation is still being treated just as it would be in a murder investigation," Mathis said.

"It is very much too early to make any kind of determination that this was a suicide or a murder because the investigations are not complete," he added.

Also on Monday evening, authorities in Texas released surveillance video taken inside the county jail where Bland died, showing nine minutes of footage taken over a three-hour period leading up to her death. While her cell is not in direct view in the video, guards and paramedics can be seen attending to Bland after she was found hanging in her cell just before 9am.

The Texas Rangers and the FBI subsequently opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Bland's death. Meanwhile, the officer involved has been placed on desk duty.

Despite the district attorney's announcement that the incident will be investigated as a murder would be, Waller County Sheriff's Office Captain of Patrol Brian Cantrell said Bland's death was determined to be a suicide.

"I want to make clear that the death of Ms. Bland was a tragic incident — not one of criminal intent or a criminal act," Cantrell said, according to NBC News. He said he welcomes any investigation.

The evidence gathered in the investigation, including DNA analysis of the trash bag, will eventually be presented to a grand jury.

Related: Friends Suspect Foul Play After Woman's Supposed Suicide in Texas Jail