And Again

[Content Note: Police brutality; racism; death; self-harm.]

Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman from suburban Chicago, had just relocated to Waller County, Texas, for a job in student outreach at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University in Texas. She was to start in her new position this week.

Last Friday, she was pulled over near the university by a state trooper for improperly signaling a lane change. According to Waller County Sheriff's Department officials, she became "combative" with the trooper, who then restrained her and arrested her for assault on a public servant. She was taken into custody and was found dead in her cell on Monday morning. The Waller County Sheriff's Department say that she killed herself.

As is rage-makingly familiar by this point, officers' version of events is being disputed. In this ABC Chicago news report, Bland's friend Malcolm Jackson says: "After he pulled her out of the car, forced her and tossed her to the ground, knee to the neck, and arrested her." A video shot of the arrest, which begins after Bland is already on the ground, Bland can be heard exclaiming, "You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can't even hear!"

ABC Chicago also reports: "The Texas State Rangers are now overseeing the investigation of Sandy Bland's death. They have not commented on the release of the arrest video, and there are thought to be other videos of the arrest, perhaps closer and from other angles." One of them might start earlier, giving further insight into what happened between Bland being pulled over for a routine traffic stop and being roughly thrown and pinned to the ground.

Bland's family and friends say it's inconceivable to them that Bland would have killed herself. It's not unheard of, of course, for people to take their own lives and utterly shock their loved ones by doing so. But it certainly does seem strange that Bland, who had just moved to begin a job about which she was excited, and who had posted regularly on social media about the injustice of police killings of black women and men, would have ended her own life in police custody.

And this is very curious: The Chicago Tribune includes in their report today that "online county jail records show that Bland was arrested Friday and was to be released Monday on $5,000 bail." And according to Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith, "jailers saw Bland at 7 a.m. Monday when they gave her breakfast and again at 8 a.m. when they spoke with her over the jail intercom. Smith says she was found dead an hour later." Why would someone who knows she's just about to be released kill herself?

Further, per the Tribune's report, Smith said "Bland was found Monday morning by a female jailer who had gone to Bland's cell to see if she wanted some recreation time." As Jamilah Lemieux observes here: "If Bland was to have been released on Monday, why was she being offered 'recreation time?'"

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis says, "I do not have any information that would make me think it was anything other than just a suicide," but there are some significant questions that need to be answered, before any reasonable person would be convinced that Bland took her own life.

Her family and friends are demanding those answers. And will certainly demand accountability if the Texas Rangers investigation, or any subsequent investigations (like, say, by the Department of Justice, ahem), find that Bland was left to die of an untreated head injury or killed in some other way.

They have my sincere condolences for their loss, and my support as they pursue the truth. #JusticeForSandy

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