In a video released Wednesday night, multiple police officers seem to be holding 28-year-old Sandra Bland to the ground while she cries out, “You just slammed my head into the ground, do you not even care about that?” Three days later, Bland was found dead in a jail cell.
Bland was reportedly pulled over on Friday for improperly signaling a lane change. A witness said he saw the arresting officer pull Bland out of the car, throw her to the ground and put his knee on her neck while he arrested her. She was then charged with assaulting an officer and taken to a jail in Waller County, Texas, where she was found dead Monday.
The sheriff’s office says Bland hanged herself. But multiple friends and family members have come forward to accuse them of foul play.
Bland had just moved down to Texas from Chicago for a new job in student outreach at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, according to ABC 7 Chicago. The job would have started Wednesday. Bland was also an outspoken civil rights advocate who frequently posted on social media about police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Though the circumstances around Bland’s arrest and death are still murky, routine traffic stops often escalate when they involve a person of color. Federal statistics show that police are 31 percent more likely to pull over a black driver than a white driver. Black drivers are also more likely to be pulled over for minor offenses like a broken tail light or failure to signal a turn. Sometimes, they are not even given a reason at all for the stop. These encounters may seem like minor inconveniences to white people, but for black drivers traffic stops have the real possibility of turning deadly.
Texas Rangers have taken over the investigation into Bland’s death, and #JusticeForSandy is picking up steam on social media as friends try to find out what exactly happened in the jail.
Another inmate was found hanging in the same jail in 2012 after being charged with assaulting an officer, marijuana possession, and evading arrest with a vehicle.
Texas has taken some steps recently in reforming its prisons, but its jails continue to be overcrowded and rife with abuse. Neighboring Harris County is under its own investigation after a mentally disabled inmate, arrested for marijuana, was left for weeks in a rancid cell full of trash, insects, and piles of his own feces. The jail’s medical staff admitted in April they were aware of the inmate’s condition but didn’t tell anyone.