Sandra Bland’s mother filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday claiming that Bland should never have been arrested and blaming Texas officials for her death.
Bland is the 28-year-old African American woman who died in police custody last month. 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 also joined the Texas Rangers in conducting the investigation.
The wrongful-death lawsuit names state trooper Brian Encinia, the Texas trooper who arrested Bland, as well as the two guards at Waller County Jail. According to the lawsuit, guards at the jail did not check on Bland frequently enough, and failed to act when Bland refused meals. Additionally, the lawsuit accuses Encina of using excessive force during the arrest, which “caused Sandra Bland to suffer injury and death.”
“We are looking for Waller County and for individuals involved in this situation to take accountability,” said Cannon Lambert, a lawyer for Bland’s family, at a news conference in Houston. “This family is frustrated.”
“What happened to Sandra Bland is outrageous,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, after the release of dashboard camera footage from Bland’s arrest. “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?”
In the footage that was released, 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.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 7/22/15; NY Times 8/4/15; RH Reality Check 8/5/15;