The family of the late Sandra Bland has reached a settlement with Texas authorities in its wrongful death lawsuit, the family's legal team announced Thursday. Attorney Cannon Lambert has confirmed combined settlements with both the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Waller County jail amounting to $1.9 million, CBS Newsreports.
Bland died at the jail in 2015 following a controversial traffic stop by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, which sparked protests in the state and nationwide. After being taken into custody, Bland was later discovered "hanging from a cell partition." According toCBS DFW, Encinia was eventually fired in March of this year and accused of perjury for allegedly lying about the manner in which he removed Bland from the car during the stop. In footage of the stop, the trooper can be heard telling Bland he will "light [her] up" with a stun gun.
In July, an officer involved in the case claimed that county prosecutors threatened him about coming forward with suppressed evidence. Prairie View police officer Michael Kelley alleged that certain facts about Encinia were removed from the original incident report, including Kelley's assessment that Bland had marks on her forehead upon arrival. "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." Bland's death was ultimately ruled a suicide, though her family and others close to the case have argued that the investigation was flawed.
"We're upset, and we're disappointed, and that's what we feel collectively as a family," Bland's sister, Sharon Cooper, told CBS in December surrounding the investigation into Bland's arrest and subsequent death. "I sit here, and I tell you that we don't have faith in a grand jury process because there is no feeling that it would be impartial or unbiased based off the secret nature of it." The grand jury ultimately declined to indict anyone in Bland's death.
As part of the combined settlement reached Thursday, CBS Newsreports that the jail will now employ an on-duty nurse and emergency medical personnel for "all shifts" in the future. Additionally, the passage of Texas legislation that will provide funding for booking and screening support for regional jails will be sought. Any resulting laws from these efforts will be named after Bland.