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Sandra Bland: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Sandra Bland, Sandy Bland

Sandra Bland. (Facebook)

The family of an Illinois woman found dead in a Texas jail cell after she was arrested during a traffic stop is raising questions about how she died.

Sandra Bland, 28, was stopped by a Texas state trooper on Friday, July 10 and found dead at the Waller County, Texas, jail on Monday, July 13 the Chicago Tribune reports. Local authorities in Texas say Bland died by suicide, but her family and friends don’t believe that is the case and suspect that the true cause of her death is being covered up.

Bland was being held on $5,000 bail after a Saturday court appearance. Her friends say they planned to post her bail on Monday.

The Texas Jail Commission announced that they have cited the Waller County Jail for failing to properly monitor Bland. And the Texas Department of Public Safety says its preliminary review has found violations of the department’s procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy.

Watch dashcam footage from the traffic stop and arrest here.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Bland Was in Texas to Start a New Job at Her Alma Mater

Bland had traveled to Texas for an interview at Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater, last week, for a job interview. Her family told ABC 7 News that Bland got the job and was going to start working at the university in student outreach on July 15.

Bland graduated from the university in 2008 and then returned home to Illinois. She was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., according to the website Watch The Yard.

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2. She Was Stopped on Friday for Improperly Signaling & Allegedly Assaulted a Police Officer

The Waller County Sheriff’s Office told the Chicago Tribune that Bland was arrested on Friday and charged with “assault on a public servant.”

Bland was pulled over by a state trooper in a routine traffic stop for improper signaling of a lane change, ABC 7 reports. During the stop, she allegedly assaulted a police officer.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said in a press release on Friday that a preliminary investigation has identified violations, including of the department’s traffic stop procedures and its courtesy policy. Trooper Brian Encinia, who made the stop, has been put on desk duty as a result, while the investigation is completed.

A bystander’s video of the arrest was posted onto YouTube. It shows several police officers standing over Bland while she is on the ground, arguing with them about why they’re being so rough. At one point, she can be heard saying, “You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that?” She also thanks the man recording the incident for filming as she is led to a police cruiser.

Her friend, Malcolm Jackson, told ABC 7, “After he (an officer) pulled her out of the car, forced her and tossed her to the ground, knee to the neck, and arrested her.”

Police told the news station that Bland was “combative on the side of the road.”

The incident is being investigated by the Texas Rangers and the FBI.

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3. Her Death Has Been Ruled Suicide by Hanging, but Her Friends Say She Wouldn’t Have Killed Herself

Sandra Bland, Sandy Bland

(Facebook)

The Waller County Sheriff’s Office says that Bland was found in her cell Monday morning, three days after her arrest. She was “not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release. Police say the officer who found her started CPR, and EMS was called. She was pronounced dead a short time later.

An autopsy found her cause of death to be suicide by hanging.

Officials said Thursday that Bland used a trash bag to hang herself from a partition separating the bed area and the bathroom, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“Trash bags are a day to day item in the cells,” Sheriff Glenn Smith said at a press conference.

She had last been seen by guards at 7 a.m., and she talked to them by intercom at 8 a.m. when she was given breakfast.

The district attorney says he has no information to suspect foul play.

Documents released by the county show that Bland told jailers she tried to commit suicide over the past year after the loss of her child, according to the Houston Chronicle. Bland told them she wasn’t feeling suicidal at the time of her arrest. She also told them that she takes medication for epilepsy.

Bland had spoken in a Facebook video about dealing with depression and PTSD, but her mother and friends have said that she had moved past that.

“The Waller County Jail is trying to rule her death a suicide and Sandy would not have taken her own life,” a friend, LaNitra Dean, told ABC 7. “Sandy was strong. Strong mentally and spiritually.”

They said she had just landed her dream job.

“I do suspect foul play,” another friend, Cheryl Nanton, told the news station. “I believe that we are all 100 percent in belief that she did not do harm to herself.”

Her sorority sister, Alana Taylor, told Watch The Yard:

Sandra Bland is my line sister. Her personality and outlook on life alone DOES NOT resemble uncertainty or depression. She was a strong force that took life head on. Suicide would be the last thing on her mind as she was on the brink of starting a new chapter of life: a new job, a strong cause to fight for and a thick network of support. There are just too many discrepancies and holes in the official report. As far as her friends, chapter, alma mater and family are concerned: Sandy is still speaking and somebody is gonna listen. #SandySpeaks”

“I understand there’s some disbelief among some friends and family that she would do this to herself,” District Attorney Elton Mathis told the Chicago Tribune. “That’s why it’s very important that the Texas Rangers be allowed to conduct a thorough investigation.”

“Sheriff R Glenn Smith states that any loss of life is a tragic incident and while the investigation is being conducted by outside agencies, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office will continue to observe the daily operations of the jail to always look for improvements and/or preventions of these incidents,” the press release said.

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4. The Waller County Sheriff Was Fired From a Previous Job Over Racism Allegations

Sheriff Glenn Smith, Glenn Smith, Waller County Sheriff

Sheriff Glenn Smith. (Waller County Sheriff’s Office)

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith was fired from his job as police chief in Hempstead, Texas, after racism allegations were made against him and four of his officers, the Houston Chronicle reported.

He was fired in 2008 and elected shortly after by Waller County to be its sheriff.

At a press conference, Smith addressed the firing and racism accusations, saying it was “just politics,” and adding that two of the councilman who led the investigation into his actions were later convicted of bribery, according to the Chronicle.

“Black lives matter to Glenn Smith,” the sheriff said. “I can assure you of that.”

Daily Kos columnist Shaun King has also reported that there have been other suicides recently at the county jail.

The Chronicle, citing public records, said the last suicide was in 2012, when an inmate hanged himself with bedsheets tied to an air-conditioning grate.

The Texas Jail Commission cited the Waller County Jail for sub-standard training on how to handle potentially suicidal and mentally disabled inmates after investigating Bland’s death, the Houston Press reports.

Brandon Wood, the commission’s executive director, said the jail was cited for failure to personally observe an inmate once an hour. It was cited for the same violation in 2012 after the other inmate’s suicide.

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5. Bland Often Spoke Out Against Police Brutality & Racial Injustice

Sandra Bland

(Facebook)

Bland’s Facebook page shows that she was active in the Black Lives Matter movement and often posted about police brutality and racial injustice, including in videos she called “Sandy Speaks,” where she opined on race issues.

Concerns and questions about her death spread on social media.

#SandraBland was trending on Twitter early Thursday morning as questions and concerns about her death spread across social media. Others posted with #WhatHappenedtoSandraBrand and called for a federal investigation into her death.

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322 comments

  1. Just a little BACKGROUND on Ms Bland. Please read the whole thing. It comes from NBC NEWS CHICAGO if you’d like to read the whole thing.

    March of 2013 – Bland was stopped in Crestwood Township while driving a 2013 Cadillac DeVille and received two citations – for speeding 21-25 mph above the limit, and for operating an uninsured motor vehicle. She was fined $200, which – according to Cook County Court records – has not been paid.

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    1:57
    Sandra Bland, 28, of suburban Villa Park, was a graduate of Willowbrook High School. She traveled last week from Chicago to Waller County Texas, where she was scheduled to begin a new job at a local college. On Monday, she was found dead. NBC Chicago’s Phil Rogers investigates. (Published Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015)
    November of 2013 – A report in a suburban newspaper says that Bland was arrested in Naperville; charged on a warrant, and transported to DuPage County Jail. The news report does not say what the warrant was for.
    February of 2014 – Bland was stopped by Lombard Police and charged with operating an uninsured motor vehicle and driving with expired license plates. She was convicted in both charges and fined, but by May of 2014 court records show that she still owed $2,769.00 in fines, and the judge ordered that the Illinois Secretary of State be notified of her failure to pay.
    March 3, 2014 – Naperville Police cited Bland for operating an uninsured motor vehicle. Court records show she was ordered to pay a fine, but was cited twice for failure to pay. In June of 2014 the court ordered that the Illinois Secretary of State be notified, and the docket lists a $1,313.00 balance still due.
    March 8, 2014 – Approximately five days after her stop in Naperville, Bland was stopped by police in Lombard and charged with two counts of driving under the influence; speeding 15-20 mph over the speed limit; improper lane usage; disobeying a traffic control signal; failing to signal when changing lanes; driving on a suspended license, and operating an uninsured motor vehicle. The court found her guilty of one DUI charge, and all the other charges were dismissed. She received court supervision and was fined, and court records show that she still owes $3,132.00 in this case. (A spokesman with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office says Bland’s driver’s license was automatically suspended for six months – until November of 2014 – as a result of this DUI conviction.)
    During that suspension – in May of 2014 – Naperville Police cited Bland for speeding 15-20 mph over the limit. According to the DuPage County court docket, Bland “fail[ed] to comply” in the case in June of 2014 and again in August of 2014, when the court ordered the Illinois Secretary of State to be notified. Records show a $45.00 balance due in this case, though a court spokesman says the actual amount owed is $165.00. The outcome in this case is not clear.
    These notifications would have come up when Bland next tried to renew her license, according to the Illinois Secretary of State spokesman, and she would be required to pay all balances due.

    NBC5 Investigates found five other police encounters involving Sandra Bland ranging from 2010 back to 2004:
    May of 2010 – Bland was charged in two separate court cases in Harris County, Texas, for misdemeanor possession of a small amount of marijuana and driving while intoxicated. Court records show that the DWI charge was dismissed, but Bland pled guilty in September of 2010 to the pot charge.
    April of 2009 – Bland was charged in Harris County with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, but the charge was dismissed.
    June of 2005 – Bland was stopped by police in Oakbrook Terrace and charged with two traffic violations: Driving too fast for conditions or failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, and operating an uninsured motor vehicle. She pled guilty to both charges; was given supervision, and paid a fine.
    June of 2004 – Bland was charged by Elmhurst police with one count of retail theft of less than $150. She pled guilty to that charge in August of 2004; paid a fine; and was sentenced to community service and supervision.
    Published at 4:52 PM CDT on Jul 16, 2015

      • Does add relevance knowing she has been in trouble with the police, the courts over her driving. It also may help people to understand why her family didn’t help bail (only $500!) her out of this jail. Could be the Family was just feed up with her run ins with the police and courts and didn’t wanted to be bothered anymore. Just like showing Michael Brown robbing convenience store on video, it showed he wasn’t a good boy, yet that’s all we heard from his family and friends that he was a good boy. This whole thing is sad, VERY sad but don’t try laying the blame on someone else for what she ended up doing.

        • It doesn’t. The incident is independent of anything else that happened prior. People make mistakes….she had traffic violations in her history – so what? How does that make her a bad person? If a rape victim was a prostitute, would you bring up her history too in order to minimize the actions of the rapist? One can always speculate about the relationship she had between members of her family and why they did not bail her out, but again, I don’t see the importance of any of that with regards to the inappropriate behaviour of the officer.

          • So what you’re saying is your NOT upset about her suicide, just the behavior of the State Trooper? Well okay than. Her driving record may not have anything to do with her and the Trooper behavior. Yes he did have inappropriate behavior but she didn’t help the situation by not obeying what he was telling her to do. If you’re told to put the cigarette out you put it out. She could of easily flip the cigarette into his face and his eyes. Guarantee that sure as heck would of hurt, maybe blinding the trooper and him losing control of the stop and (reaching now) her shooting him while he could see. Remember he doesn’t know her. When ask to step out of the vehicle, you step out. An officer has been trained (over and over again in training) to CONTROL the situation, the minute he/she (officer) is not in control, all hell can and will break loose. The problem with some cops is they don’t use their common sense in some situations, this may of been one where he should of. BUT again I nor you were there so he had to make that call, not us. If the Trooper was able pull up her driving record from Illinois, that could be why he stop her, I don’t know. So in a way her driving record does come back to how the Trooper reacted.

            • Umm.. no, and nothing I stated should even lead to that impression. I find the situation sad all around, however, I am not here to speculate on the reasons behind her apparent suicide. The cop in this situation didn’t use “fair common sense,” he had his ego to satisfy instead.

              • And Sandra did not use her common sense and do what the officer was telling her to do, right? I explain the reason why he may of gotten upset with her. If you feel your civil or personal rights have been violated the safest thing for you to do is follow the officers instructions and file a complaint after the stop is over. It does seem like you are blaming this Trooper for her suicide? Don’t see how that even comes into play since she die 3 day later?

                • The officer is in the position of authority, he should be trained to handle situations with members of the public who may upset, emotional, or not be fully compliant. However, he had a bone to pick and needed to reassert his sense of authority over her because she wasn’t completely subservient to him. If he is going to allow his own personal issues concerning his ego get in the way of doing his job professionally, then he should not be an officer dealing with members of the public. Never once did I blame the trooper for her suicide…I wasn’t the one who brought up a discussion of the reasons behind her apparent suicide to begin with…

                  • As I stated they are trained to take control of the situations. If you don’t listen to what you are being told by a cop, things will get ugly real fast, and no one is going to have any fun. Sandra didn’t listen so she took it to the next step with the Trooper, so he also had to up his game with her. As I stated before if he was able to pull up her Police Record and Driving record (I believe he could) on his in car computer he knew this stop could be a trouble stop. By her NOT following his orders he had to really enforce to her what she was going to do and if she didn’t follow his orders crap was going to hit the fan. And as we see it did. Lets take this a step further. You say “not fully compliant”. You play the Trooper, you don’t know Sandra, she a stranger to you. How would you handle someone that refuses to comply with your orders. Would you say “sorry miss didn’t mean bother you today, that’s okay you don’t have to listen to me, you can leave now”? That be kind of silly now wouldn’t. If that was the case how many people out there would just tell a cop to stop bothering them and to leave them alone, plenty I bet. lol You say “upset and emotional” why is He/She upset? He/She just break law? He/She just have a fight with someone and knife or shoot them? Does He/She still have the weapon on Him/Her??? NO cop is going to give you a big hug or comfort you until they know why you’re “upset and emotional”. Being a Cop is dangerous work, you never know if someone is going to fight you or kill you. Cops get killed because some do and will get careless. This is one job you can never be careless and never ever let your guard down, cuz if you do the next traffic stop could be your last, cuz you’re now dead!

                    • He did not have to get to the point to demand her out of the car to begin with…that was his ego talking and not “law.” She knew this, that he had no valid reason to demand her out of the car and she stood up against him (right or wrong). The issue STILL lies with the cop. He can order her out of the car but he took advantage of this power in order to feed his ego. His entire reason for pulling her over to begin with was dubious, so whether or not he eventually “pulled up her driving record” is meaningless. Even other officers/former officers have said in the media that this trooper was unprofessional. She was upset because she felt it unnecessary for her to be pulled over. He then tried to fan the flames by asking her “Are you Ok?” “You sound irritated..” He was ITCHING for her to respond the way she ended up responding. He wanted a fight. Sadly, Sandra took the bait. He is an unprofessional and disgustingly ego-driven individual.

                    • Well this is going nowhere fast. LOL You have you option, I have mine, so we shall part ways now. Just remember don’t judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. Good Luck to you and I sure hope you don’t get puller over by a cop and refuse to comply with his/her orders. I can’t rebuttal you from what you wrote, because it is not letting me, at least I don’t think it is. PS. Remember most will say anything if it gets them in the press (TV, Papers, Magazines).

                    • My perspective on Sandra Bland doesn’t mean that I would do the same, react the same or make the same decisions as she did. However, I can completely understand why she reacted the way she did. I can certainly agree to disagree on the other points made. Godspeed!

        • That’s not laying the blame on anyone. The violation should have been appropriately handle. Of course, white folks can always find a reason to validate racism.

      • That she got pulled over a lot not because she was black but because she wasn’t that conscientious of a driver. In the video of her arrest she blew a stop sign prior to getting pulled over. She sure didn’t take any crap from that cop though, and dished a bit of her own. This whole thing could have been avoided if one or the other would have just shut their mouths for a bit and got on with their lives instead of sitting there bickering at each other.

  2. Maybe she Killed herself because her own family would NOT help bail her out of Jail. She had nothing but trouble with her driving and police/courts for more than 10 years. It seems like her WHOLE family was also upset with her that they ALL couldn’t even come up with $500 to Bail her out. This whole thing is sad, sad she killed herself, sad her family didn’t help her, and sad they (family) are now looking to sue and blame someone else for what happen to Sandra.

  3. Sandra Blane was a brave woman who knew her rights. She showed integrity and was forthright with her answers to the troopers questions. When he asked her to please put her cigarette out, again she was true to her freedom and rights. It doesn’t sound like to many people on here will give her those rights but instead criticize her. Freedom IS NOT FREE you have to exercise those rights and stop being afraid even if it means death. History proves this. Keep joining together and keep out the fools who may have other agendas other than exercising your rights. I have admire the black communities joining together. This trooper put Sandra between a hard place and a rock who knows maybe she even thought she could be killed by him while on the street. If it was me and I thought that I would have said worse things “&%$# you and go to hell”. This was a heart felt belief in Sandra

  4. All I heard in the video was her yelling at the officers. Be respectful & she never would’ve gotten arrested. And when you have a history of depression, there’s no telling what being trapped in that jail cell could’ve done to her mentally. All I’m saying is, this could’ve all been avoided if she would’ve kept quiet and taken her ticket for not using her blinker.

    • I don’t care what her driving record was. I don’t care if she called the cop a price of shit. I’m sick of the police treating the citizens who they are supposed to protect and serve like the enemy. I’m a white female with no record and I’ve been harassed over fake traffic violations. My boyfriend was practically assaulted for going 5 miles over the speed limit and passing a sobriety test. He did not argue or give the cop any attitude at all. He works in security himself and knows how to desl with people without making threats but he gets treated like a criminal.Sometimes cops just wanna find you guilty of something so they can collect their fine. Its legalized thuggery. Cops need to remember who pays their salaries and exorbtsnt retirement packages_ you and I .In my town its a known fact that cops pull over young women just to check them out. Its happened to me twice. There was a documented cade of a cop stalking and looking up private info on a woman he pulled over. This needs to be dealt with!
      I’m sorry for Sandra’s family. She was just a feisty lady who hated the fact that cops often give huge fines for trifling reasons and didn’t want to be bossed around. Im going to teach my son no matter how big if a jerk the cop is, just agree with him and keep your mouth shut.

  5. another fact that people seem to be avoiding with this situation is the stigma of mental stress in the black community, is if we are not allowed to commit suicide! have nervous breakdowns are be depress. just saying

  6. I don’t care what her driving record was. I don’t care if she called the cop a price of rst shit. I’m sick of the police treating the citizens who they are supposed to protect and serve like the enemy. I’m a white female with no record and I’ve been harasses over fake traffic violations. My boyfriend was practically assaulted for going 5 miles over the speed limit and passing a sobriety test. Sometimes cops just wanna find you guilty of something so they can collect their fine. Its legalized thuggery. Cops need to remember who pays their salaries and exorbtsnt retirement packages_ you and I .

  7. We all know that 99.9 percent of people in custody did not hang themselves. They we harmed by jail staff. But proving it is so hard. This has got to stop. They don’t need to keep getting away with these murders. If you look at each case they are all the same. Hung with a sheet. In a cell by themselves. the time factor that the hanging took place is similar. My grandson was only 22 years old. He was never depressed but yet they said He hung himself. For what! Somebody please help. I;m in Fresno ca. I need a lawyer. They know we don’t have money to afford a lawer! It just going to keep on happened.

  8. I can’t believe how people can’t read between the lines. It’s clear as the nose on your face that that woman didn’t commit suicide. It doesn’t matter what she did or didn’t do she did not deserve the death penalty while in custody.. people just don’t realize things until it happens to them and family members. Police are hanging people when they are in custody more than anyone realizes.

  9. Sandra Bland was a #blackLIESmatter troublemaker who created a situation and then decided to stupidly martyr herself. And for WHAT”!? For a LIE! She had proclaimed her intentions to come back to Texas and stir up racial bs.