Sandra Bland: What You Should Know

On July 10th, civil rights activist Sandra Bland was pulled over by a state trooper in Prairie View, Texas, for committing a minor traffic violation. Dashcam footage – released by the Texas Department of Public Safety over ten days after the incident – shows police officer, Brian Encinia, approach Bland’s car, and write her a ticket for failing to signal. Soon after, Encinia asks Bland to put out her cigarette. When Bland questions this request, Encinia orders her to step out the vehicle, and states that she is under arrest. The dashcam shows Bland exiting her car after Encinia begins pointing his taser at her, shouting “I will light you up – Get out now!” Around ten minutes into the footage, the two move out of the camera’s range, and Bland can be heard shouting and crying as Encinia arrests her. Three days later, she was found dead in her jail cell. The Harris County medical examiner claims that she hanged herself, using a plastic bag.

Sandra Bland -
Sandra Bland

Once this information – alongside Bland’s mugshot – was released to the world, Twitter, Tumblr, hacker group Anonymous, and even some online publications, took to the internet to express their suspicions concerning the circumstances of the woman’s death. But it wasn’t just the dashcam footage, and Encinia’s actions, that sparked outrage – it was the rapidly growing theory that Sandra Bland was already dead when her mugshot was taken.

Although an initial autopsy report did rule her death a suicide by asphyxiation, it has been reported that Bland’s family are awaiting the results of a secondary autopsy they had requested themselves. This information led to a plethora of theories apparently proving that Bland was not alive when her mugshot was taken, and that she had actually been murdered previously by members of the Texas police department. These speculations included the fact that plastic bags are not permitted in jail cells, the alignment of Bland’s shoulders suggesting that she was lying down when the photo was taken, and that the colour of the mugshot’s background is consistent with the colour of the jail cell’s floor. A full list of these speculations concerning Bland’s death can be found here.

Sandra Bland's mugshot -
Bland’s mugshot

In an attempt to dispel rumours and threats, Texas authorities released a video documenting Bland’s stay in the jail, including footage of her booking, mugshot, and several phone calls she made. However, this footage does not resolve the idea that a civil rights activist, who was actively involved in the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, seemingly chose to commit suicide when she failed to make bail. Similarly, it also does not dismiss the fact that Bland, like hundreds of others, was a victim of unauthorised police brutality for committing a minor offense.

According to data compiled by The Guardian, 664 people have already been killed by police in America this year. Although white people accounted for just under half of the deaths, the data also revealed that black people were twice as likely to be killed when unarmed. While the exact circumstances of Bland’s death are still up for debate, any confirmation will not discount the severe issue of police brutality in The US, and it certainly does not mean that black lives are any less threatened by state troopers. Just yesterday, unarmed motorist Samuel DuBose was shot dead by a Cincinnati police officer, after he failed to produce a driving licence. Although the officer has since been indicted for his crime, there still exists too many cases of American police officers escaping charges and, in some cases, actually being rewarded for their violence against black individuals.

Samuel DuBose -
Samuel DuBose

Sandra Bland’s case wasn’t the first – and it definitely won’t be the last. The so-called conspiratorial nature of the situation meant that her death gained more attention than the average occurrence of racially motivated police brutality, but this does not mean that this issue is in any way close to being resolved. There are hundreds of black lives who have not received such attention – and there are hundreds of black lives still in danger.




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