Sandra Bland Case: Dashcam Footage Released

[Content Note: Police brutality; racism; death.]

Yesterday, I noted that the dashcam footage of Sandra Bland's arrest was soon to be released, and it was released last night. [CN: Video autoplays at link.] It is very difficult to watch. Two important observations:

1. The dashcam video, which includes audio, does not show Bland being "combative" by any reasonable definition of the word. It shows State Trooper Brian Encinia barking orders at Bland, first to extinguish her cigarette, which she refuses to do, telling him that she has a right to smoke in her car, then to get out of her vehicle, which she also refuses to do, telling him that he has no right to order her out of her vehicle when she's not under arrest.

Encinia gets increasingly angry and begins threatening to drag Bland out of her car. He opens her car door and reaches in for her and continues to shout at her as she tries to establish exactly why he is telling her that she needs to get out of her vehicle. Eventually, Bland gets out, and she makes clear to him that she thinks it's bullshit and continues to ask why the hell this is necessary when she was pulled over for failing to signal a lane change. The officer shouts at her that she's not complying, and she angrily tells him, "I'm not complying because you just pulled me out of my car!" He cuffs her, shouts at her to stop moving and sit down, and she says, "Ooh, I can't wait 'til we go to Court."

Bland is contemptuous; Encinia is increasingly rageful. He tells her she's not allowed to hold her phone. He forces her to put her phone down on the trunk of her car. He tells her to turn around so she can be cuffed, and refuses to answer why she's being placed under arrest. He is screaming at her to stop moving and yelling at her that this is all her fault, because originally he was just going to give her a warning. (Then why didn't he just give it to her and let her go on her way?!) Eventually, he slams her to the ground, and she cries out. A female officer arrives.

Bland can be heard crying out about her head being slammed on the ground, and she says, "I have epilepsy, you motherfucker," to which Encinia replies, "Good." The female officer tells her, "You should have thought about that before you started resisting."

Encinia tells Bland, "You wait right here," to which she replies, "I can't go nowhere with a knee on my back DUH." She mocks the officers for feeling tough for hurting a woman over a lane change ticket. She verbally protests, but she is not "combative." (And only after the officer has been unreasonable.) I need you understand that Bland is a feisty, tough, defiant woman. This is a woman who intends to survive, and on her terms.

2. The dashcam video has clearly been edited. Here, for example, is one segment in which a tow truck driver can be seen walking toward Encinia's cruiser, while he is heard describing events to another officer. And then the scene of the tow truck driver just loops, although the audio is different.

Video Description: A tow truck drive in a black jacket with reflective stripes can be seen reaching into his truck for something, then walking in the direction of the cruiser, past Bland's parked car, and then offscren to the right. The video then blinks and the same exact scene repeats, though the audio does not, although it seems as though the audio has been edited in some way, too.

Over the repeated scene, Encinia can be heard saying: "—and, you know, and just explained to her what was going on, because I couldn't even—I couldn't even get to do what I was telling her. She just started going, 'This is an emeffing—you give me an emeffing ticket for lane change!' and she just started going—" Pause as he listens to an inaudible voice. "I just stepped back from the car. I was like, 'Are you done, ma'am? I need to tell you why what I'm giving you.' And it just kept on going." Pause as he listens. "I mean, I don't have serious bodily injury." He chuckles. "You know, but I—but I was kicked." Pause. "Assault is if—" An inaudible voice is heard on the other end of the line. "Assault is if a person commits offense intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another—"
He is patently lying about what happened. Bland was not complaining about getting a ticket. She was asking why she needed to put out her cigarette and get out of her vehicle over a ticket. And Encinia was not being thwarted as he tried to explain "why" to her, but was, in fact, refusing to explain why to her.

Much of their altercation happens offscreen, and they are heard and not seen, so I can't say with certainty that Bland didn't kick him (although I will tell you that my opinion is that it's extremely unlikely, especially since he was shouting about every other move she was making; I can't imagine he wouldn't have mentioned her kicking him if she really had), but clearly he's already setting up his defense here. She started it; she assaulted him.

That is flatly not what happened.

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