HEMPSTEAD, Texas — A newly released dashcam video documents how a routine traffic stop escalated into a shouting confrontation between a Texas state trooper and Sandra Bland that led to the woman’s arrest.
The video posted online Tuesday by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows the trooper stopping Bland for failure to signal a lane change.
After he hands her a ticket, the trooper remarks that Bland seemed irritated. Bland says she was irritated because she was ticketed after changing lanes to get out of the path of the trooper’s car.
Words are exchanged, including the trooper’s request that Bland put out a cigarette. Bland says she can smoke in her own car. The trooper then orders her to step out of her car.
Bland refuses, and the trooper tells her she is under arrest. Further refusals brought the trooper’s threat to “drag” her from the car. He then pulls what appears to be a weapon and says, “I will light you up.”
When she steps out, the trooper orders her to the side of the road. There, the confrontation continues off camera but is still audible.
The 28-year-old Bland was found hanging in her jail cell three days after the incident.
A leading member of the Texas Legislature’s black caucus says he and other elected officials will push for a full, transparent investigation into the jail death of Bland.
Sen. Royce West, a veteran lawyer and Dallas Democrat, spoke at a news conference Tuesday with Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other officials following a meeting about Bland’s death.
West, who is black, says it’s “important that America knows” there is transparency in the investigation and no “whitewash” of the facts. He also asked for ethnic diversity among the grand jurors selected to investigate the case.
Local District Attorney Elton Mathis reiterated that the case — like all jails deaths — was being investigated as a homicide.
Waller County’s chief administrator says he and the district attorney met privately Tuesday with family members of Bland.
Judge Trey Duhon says District Attorney Elton Mathis told Bland’s mother and sister that while evidence indicates Bland killed herself, the prosecutor intends to treat the death “no differently than a murder investigation” where “no stone is left unturned.”
The meeting was requested by the family’s attorney.
Duhon says Bland’s family expressed some concerns and still has many questions.
The judge, the chief administrator of the county, says it was important to tell them county officials “are completely committed to an open and transparent investigative process.”
The Waller County sheriff’s office has acknowledged in the aftermath of Bland’s death that it violated state rules dictating personnel training and the monitoring of inmates.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards last week cited the county jail for not providing documents proving that jailers in the past year had undergone training on interacting with inmates who are mentally disabled or potentially suicidal.
The citation also shows jailers fell short by not observing inmates in-person at least once every hour. The sheriff’s office in a statement Friday said jailers checked on Bland via intercom on one occasion rather than in person.
Commission Executive Director Brandon Wood has declined to say if the citation is related to Bland’s death. But sheriff’s officials mention her when explaining the violations, noting that they don’t believe “either one of these deficiencies had any part in the death of Ms. Bland.”
The Texas trooper who pulled Bland over for a failing to signal a lane change says in an affidavit that after handcuffing her for becoming combative, she swung her elbows at him and kicked him in his right shin.
In the affidavit released Tuesday, trooper Brian Encinia said he then used force “to subdue Bland to the ground,” and she continued to fight back. He arrested her for assault on a public servant.
Texas authorities said last week that the trooper violated procedures and the department’s courtesy policy during the traffic stop and was placed on administrative leave.
State records show Encinia has been a trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety for just over a year.