An officer involved in the case of Sandra Bland, a black Texas woman who died in jail three days after being arrested for a traffic stop, claims county prosecutors suppressed evidence of wrongdoing in the case, threatening him if he came forward with it.
Prairie View police officer Michael Kelley said facts in his original incident report that reflected poorly on State Trooper Brian Encinia, who arrested Bland, were removed. Kelley had reported that, upon arriving on the scene of the traffic stop, Bland was already handcuffed and inside the state trooper vehicle. He said she was in pain and had marks on her forehead, suggesting she may have fallen while in handcuffs or been kicked in the altercation with Encinia. Kelley also said the state trooper had turned off his body camera and was on the phone with a supervisor asking what charges he could pin on Bland, who was pulled over for failing to signal a lane change and ultimately arrested for "assaulting an officer."
"My opinion is that he messed up," Kelley told the Huffington Post. "He did not have probable cause to detain her after he pulled her out of the car."
Kelley claims top prosecutors never contacted him for this information and that Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis even threatened him if he came forward with the allegations.
"He told me it wouldn’t be good for my career," Kelley said. "Then I told him I was going to talk to Sandra Bland’s mother’s attorney, and he told me I was going to be beneath the jail."
These new details have emerged more than a year after Bland's death from an apparent suicide in jail after activist DeWayne Charleston released a recorded conversation he had with Kelley. Bland's death drew criticism over her treatment by officers, whether her death could have been prevented, and questions as to why she was arrested to begin with.
Mathis strongly denied Kelley's allegations, saying "his job was never threatened by me or my staff, and I barely knew who he was before he was indicted." He suggested Kelley was coming forward with the allegations now to direct attention away from his own recent scandal, in which he was indicted for misusing a taser on a black city councilman late last year. The officer claims the indictment was in retaliation for his attempt to speak out about the Bland case.