Last Friday, 28-year-old Sandra Bland was pulled over in Texas by Waller Country police for a minor traffic violation. The 2008 graduate of Prairie View A&M University and Naperville, Ill. native was back at her alma mater for an interview for a job she was scheduled to start Wednesday. However, police pulled her over outside the campus for "failing to signal while changing lanes." Three days later, she was found dead in her jail cell after being arrested and booked on charges for "assault on a public officer." Authorities are saying she died from "self-inflicted asphyxiation." But friends, family, and the general public suspect foul play.
Here's what we know: The Chicago Tribune is reporting a spokesman for the Waller County Public Safety Department says when Bland was outside the car waiting to be issued a written warning, she kicked the officer. Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith also says she "had been combative on the side of the road" after being pulled over for a minor violation. But video of her arrest shows differently.
In a new video obtained by ABC7, Bland is pinned to the ground by several officers while questioning why they're so forcefully restraining her. "You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can't even hear," she says on the video.
"After he pulled her out of the car, forced her, and tossed her to the ground, knee to the neck, and arrested her," her friend Malcom Jackson told ABC7 Chicago. According to reports, Bland was arraigned on Friday after the arrest and held in lieu of $5,000 bond. On Monday morning, she was found dead in her jail cell, which authorities say was suicide by hanging. While Texas Rangers—an arm of the Department of Public Safety—have been called in to investigate her death, her friends and family are adamant about foul play being involved.
Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith, who made the first public comments about Bland's death, has a history of racism on the force. The Daily Kosreports Smith was suspended and eventually fired while serving as the Chief of Police in Hempstead, Texas in 2007. Documented cases of racism led to his suspension, and more complaints led to his eventual firing.
The law firm representing Bland's family issued a statement prior to their news conference in Chicago's Loop at noon CST today: “The family of Sandra Bland is confident that she was killed and did not commit suicide. The family has retained counsel to investigate Sandy’s death.”
Friends and family have created a Facebook group and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland has taken over Twitter:
In April Bland posted a Facebook video of her discussing the difficulties of being black in America. "Black racists have no power," she said. "Whereas white racists do. They have power because they are in positions of control or, they're in positions where they can influence their control over black people."
We'll continue to update with more details when they become available.