What Happened To Sandra Bland?

Another day, another Black American killed while in police custody. This time, the victim is a Black woman named Sandra Bland, 28, who was pulled over for a minor traffic violation last Friday in Waller County, Texas, and then arrested and booked for assault on a police officer. On Monday morning, she was found dead in her cell, with police claiming she committed suicide. However, the details of this case are highly suspect, starting from the moment she was arrested.

Video of the arrest was posted to YouTube and it seriously calls into question the police’s claim that Bland had assaulted anyone. Bland is seen pinned facedown on the ground, with several officers surrounding her. Bland can be heard saying, “You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that?”

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.”

While the video starts mid-arrest, her words suggest that the only person being touched in a way that you might call “assault” is Brand herself, and this would hardly be the first time police lied about the circumstances under which they had arrested someone, especially a Black person.

That was Friday. On Monday morning at 7 a.m. she was seen alive by guards at the jail. At 8 a.m., she spoke on the intercom and was given breakfast. At 9 a.m., a female jailer came by her cell to see if she wanted recreation time, and found Bland “not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release. She died, and an autopsy ruled her death a suicide caused by hanging. Weirdly, the Chicago Tribune reports that online county jail records show that Bland was actually released Monday on $5,000 bond. “If Bland was to have been released on Monday, why was she being offered ‘recreation time?'” Ebony’s Jamilah Lemieux asks in her post about Bland’s death.

Meanwhile, her family, friends and former sorority sisters are all calling bullshit, saying that there is no way in hell Bland would have killed herself. Bland was a graduate of Prairie View A&M University in Texas and had recently returned to her alma mater to interview for her dream job in student outreach, a job her family says she was then hired for and supposed to start yesterday, July 15. It’s also worth noting that Bland was vocal in her support of the Black Lives Matter movement and frequently spoke out about police brutality on social media, including in a video series called Sandy Speaks:

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

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

And her Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority sorority sister, Alana Taylor, told the blog 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

Last night, Daily Kos columnist Shaun King tweeted that he had spoken to Bland’s family, and they too do not believe that Sandra killed herself.

Mental health is a complicated thing, and it’s possible Bland may have been struggling with issues those closest to her didn’t know about — but I gotta say, based on the suspicious nature of her arrest, alleged “release,” and her manner of death, I’m inclined to believe that there is much more going on here than the Waller County Sheriff’s Department would have us believe. And Sandra Bland’s family and friends deserve answers.

[ABC 7]

[Ebony]

[Heavy]

[Chicago Tribune]