Texas officials today released dashboard camera video footage showing Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia physically threatening Sandra Bland, a 28-year old African-American woman who died in police custody last week.
In the video, Encinia is heard telling Bland, who had been stopped for a traffic violation, to get out of her vehicle. Tensions seem to escalate when Bland questioned Encinia’s authority to order her out of her car. The officer then opened the car door himself and threatened to drag her out. Bland can be heard telling the officer, “Don’t touch me. I’m not under arrest.”
Soon thereafter, Encinia pointed a taser at Bland and yelled, “I will light you up!”
After Bland exits the car, she is and heard telling the officer, “you slammed my head into the ground, do you even care about that? I can’t even hear.” Encinia tells her that she is resisting arrest. Bland asked the officer multiple times to tell her why she was being arrested.
Bland was found dead in her jail cell three days after she was taken in. Authorities initially ruled it a suicide, but after pressure from the Bland family and the public – which spread news of the death using the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandraBland – the Waller County, Texas District Attorney announced that the death will be investigated as a homicide. The FBI has joined the Texas Rangers in conducting the investigation.
Bland’s death is the latest in a series of violent incidents against African-American women, sparking a national movement to #SayHerName.
“What happened to Sandra Bland is outrageous,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. “She should never have been ordered to leave her car in the first place and never have been arrested. This was a minor traffic violation that the officer escalated because he was challenged by a Black woman who knew her rights. How many more Black and Latino people have to die before we make fundamental change in police recruitment and training, and overhaul a justice system that is permitting police brutality with impunity?”
Less than 24 hours after Bland’s death, 18-year old Kindra Chapman was found dead in a Homewood City, Alabama jail cell one hour after being arrested for allegedly stealing a cell phone. Chapman’s death, also called a suicide by authorities, has spurred the hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody.
Two months ago, activists gathered in California to demand justice for Tanisha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Miriam Carey, Michelle Cusseux, Shelly Frey, Kayla Moore, and Alberta Spruill, all Black women killed at the hands of police violence. Just weeks after this protest, 15-year-old Dajerria Becton was violently attacked by a police officer in McKinney, Texas at a neighborhood pool party.
At the Netroots Nation 2015 Presidential Town Hall, protestors from the #BlackLivesMatter movement called on Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders to address racial justice and their plans to dismantle systemic racism, while shouting the names of Sandra Bland and other women who died in police custody.
Media Resources: Washington Post 7/22/15; PolicyMic 7/21/15; The Grio 7/16/15; Feminist Newswire 6/10/15, 5/28/15