With the Black Lives Matter movement reaching new heights through protests across the nation, demonstrators are bringing up dormant cases and calling for them to be revisited — such as the death of Sandra Bland. Bland was arrested during a traffic stop in July of 2015, and authorities found her hanged in her jail cell three days later. Her death has long been considered suspicious, and now activists say they want a thorough investigation.
Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation on July 10, 2015, in Waller County, Texas. Her encounter with State Trooper Brian Encinia escalated quickly, and Bland was ultimately arrested and charged with "assaulting a police officer." However, video evidence from the scene discredited that charge, and Encinia was later put on administrative leave for breaking protocol during the traffic stop. In the meantime, Bland did not survive her brief incarceration.
Bland was 28 years old at the time of her death, and was in Texas to begin a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. She was known among friends and family as a social rights activist, with ties to the Black Lives Matter movement and a strong social media presence. She had posted videos online about police violence against African Americans, saying at one point: "In the news that we've seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed."
Meanwhile, Encinia was known as a prolific writer of minor traffic tickets, having issued about 1,600 tickets in under a year. He often used pretextual traffic stops as a means of performing random searches of cars and drivers, hoping to find something criminal. His stop of Bland was recorded by his dashcam, a bystander's cell phone and Bland's cell phone.
Video footage of Bland inside the jail was also released later on, proving that she had arrived there alive, as conspiracy theories mounted. The woman in the cell adjacent to hers told police that she had spoken to Bland occasionally over their three days together in jail, and that she had not heard any commotion in Bland's cell on the morning of her death to indicate foul play.
Still, Bland was found hanging in her jail cell just after 9 a.m. on July 13. Her death was officially ruled a suicide Calls for an independent investigation into her death sprang up immediately, with online petitions and campaigns (as well as in-person protests) rising up. Those that knew Bland said that she was "upbeat" despite her arrest and would not have taken her own life.
Bland's death was investigated by the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety — though the investigation simultaneously examined alleged death threats made against Encinia and the guards at the jail. Ultimately, investigators found that officials had violated jail standards, and Encinia was terminated, but the ruling that Bland committed suicide was maintained.
Many activists remain unconvinced to this day, calling for a truly independent investigation. As protests around the country produce results in the cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed African Americans, Bland's case is back in the public consciousness. Here is what people are saying about it this week.
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Sandra Bland was arrested in Texas for a traffic stop. She was later found hanged in her jail cell. Her death was ruled as a suicide. Her family was even denied the right to have the case reopened despite new video evidence of her encounter. #JusticeForSandraBland Reopen her case pic.twitter.com/4XS2kTDjLy— Shari ✨ (@shariauna_) June 5, 2020
Sandra bland was pulled over & later taking into custody for a traffic violation. Officers said she hanged herself in her cell after her mugshot was taken but many people believe she was dead BEFORE her mugshot. Here’s why..— neva (@badgalneva) June 4, 2020
#BlackLivesMatter Sandra Bland was assaulted and arrested for a ‘failure to signal’. She was arrested and founded hanging on her cell days later. The case was closed as suicide. Get this case reopened by signing the petition. #PoliceBrutality #SayHerName pic.twitter.com/XN3obnHGaW— calling_out (@FBrocolli) June 6, 2020
we still need justice for sandra bland.— Daddy Bronxiana 🏳️🌈🦋 (@TarotByBronx) June 5, 2020
we still need justice for breonna taylor.
we still need justice for deborah danner.
we still need justice for pamela turner.
we still need justice for korryn gaines.
Ahmaud Arbery, 25— Titus O'Neil (@TitusONeilWWE) June 5, 2020
George Floyd, 46
Atatiana Jefferson, 28
Anthony Hill, 26
Walter Scott, 50
Jordan Davis, 17
Tamir Rice, 12
Renisha McBride, 19
Philando Castile, 32
Sandra Bland, 28
Trayvon Martin, 17
Oscar Grant, 22
John Crawford, 22
Alton Sterling, 37 pic.twitter.com/9l1bHRUtNj
STOP SHARING SANDRA BLAND’S MUGSHOT THAT WAS NOT WHO SHE WAS. THIS IS SANDRA BLAND. THIS IS WHO SHE WAS. pic.twitter.com/YoTUWCPKtt— 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐞 ✿ (@enbumblebee) June 5, 2020
They gotta re-open Sandra Bland’s case at this point too, nothing about how her case ended sits right with me.— LVS 🇨🇲 (@MyDopeConcepts) June 4, 2020
Trayvon Martin 2012
Mike Brown 2014
Eric Garner 2014
Tamir Rice 2014
Sandra Bland 2015
Freddie Gray 2015
Who were running the nation then?
Here's a hint: pic.twitter.com/KgCu6lwBKO— Stephanie 🌻 Voltolin (@SAVoltolin) June 6, 2020
Just because the officers in George Floyd's murder have been charged does NOT mean we are done.
Not by a fucking long shot.
Breonna Taylor still needs justice— Jade Aurora (@JadeAurora1989) June 5, 2020
Tamir Rice still needs justice
Sandra Bland still needs justice
Kendrick Johnson still needs justice.
You see the way the Buffalo police blatantly lied? FYI, that old man ‘tripped’ just like Sandra Bland ‘killed herself’...— Cyrus McQueen (@CyrusMMcQueen) June 5, 2020