A newly released video recorded by Sandra Bland, a black woman found dead in a Texas jailhouse three days after a confrontational traffic stop by a white state trooper in 2015, is raising new questions about an incident that helped launch the Black Lives Matter movement.
Bland’s family is demanding her case be reexamined after the 39-second video, obtained by the nonprofit journalism organization Investigative Network, was aired Monday night in Dallas TV station WFAA.
“Open up the case. Period,’’ Bland’s sister, Shante Needham, told WFAA. “We know they have an extremely, extremely good cover-up system.”
Bland, 28, was discovered hanging in her jail cell outside Houston days after being arrested in July 2015. The circumstances leading to her death, which was ruled a suicide, sparked large protests and became a flash point in the debate over the treatment of black people by police.
The clip starts with an agitated Trooper Brian Encinia ordering Bland to exit her car, and her questioning why she’s been apprehended. Encinia initially stopped her near the campus of Prairie View A&M University – her alma mater – for failing to signal a lane change.
“Get out of the car! I will light you up. Get out!’’ he yells when Bland doesn’t comply, pulling out his Taser and pointing it at her.
After Bland comes out of the car, the heated exchange continues, with her wondering aloud why a failure to signal would yield such a harsh response. He then tells Bland to get off the phone.
“I’m not on the phone,’’ she responds. “I have a right to record. This is my property.’’
The recording ends when she follows his command to put the phone down.
The dashboard video released after the incident had shown a sudden escalation in the confrontation when Encinia requested that Bland extinguish her cigarette and she refused, leading him to demand that she step out of the car and then trying to yank her out before threatening her with the Taser.
The newly unearthed footage provides Bland’s vantage point during part of the encounter.
During the investigation, Encinia told Department of Public Safety officials he feared for his safety, saying, “My safety was in jeopardy at more than one time.’’
The clip from her perspective appears to contradict that statement.
“That video shows he’s not in fear of his safety and she’s not reaching for anything. It’s already in her hand as she’s recording it,’’ Bland family lawyer Cannon Lambert told WFAA. “I’m in disbelief of what I’m seeing.’’
The Prairie View, Texas City Council decided to keep a stretch of road leading into Prairie View A&M University named in honor of Sandra Bland, the young woman who died in the Waller County Jail after being arrested in July.
Lambert, who represented the family in civil lawsuits against the state of Texas and the Waller County Jail that were settled for $1.9 million, said he hadn’t seen the cellphone footage until recently.
Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman said he would investigate why the family had not been shown the video.
“It is troubling that a crucial piece of evidence was withheld from Sandra Bland’s family and legal team in their pursuit of justice,” Coleman said in a statement.
The Department of Public Safety said the clip was presented at discovery along with the rest of the evidence from the investigation, adding that the video had previously been publicly released in 2017, when it was given to an Austin television station under open records law.
Spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger also said “the existence of the cellphone video was known to all parties” at the time, and that two years after the family’s lawsuits it is “unclear what arrangements, if any, were made by the plaintiffs to view the video.”
Two years after Bland’s death, Coleman sponsored legislation known as the Sandra Bland Act that mandates de-escalation training for police officers and increases resources for inmates with mental health and substance abuse problems.
There were reports that Bland had also attempted to kill herself after a 2014 miscarriage, and that she may have suffered from depression. Her sister, Sharon Cooper, confirmed the miscarriage in an ABC News interview but denied Bland had been diagnosed with depression.
Encinia was fired in 2016 after a grand jury indicted him on a perjury charge for his claim that he demanded Bland get out of the car merely to conduct the traffic stop in a safer manner. The charge was later dropped in exchange for Encinia agreeing never to work in law enforcement again.
Bland’s family wants more.
“This not only shows that he lied, but that he really had no business even stopping her, period,’’ Needham said about the new video. “And at the end of the day, he needs to go to jail.’’
Contributing: The Associated Press
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