Doesn’t mean that’s how it will be ruled, but it’s at least a sign that it’s being taken with appropriate seriousness.
The probe into Sandra Bland’s hanging death inside a Texas jail — which a medical examiner ruled a suicide last week — now includes the possibility of murder.
“This is being treated like a murder investigation,” Elton Mathis, Waller County’s district attorney, said at a press conference Monday.
Mathis said he made the determination after talking to Bland’s family and to those who saw her last, including the bail bondsman, who was among the last to hear from her alive.
While the Harris County medical examiner ruled her death consistent with a suicide, Mathis said it is now being treated as a murder.
“There are too many questions that need to be resolved. Ms. Bland’s family does make valid points. She did have a lot of things going on in her life for good,” Mathis said.
The district attorney also said the dashboard video of the traffic stop in Prairie View that was retrieved from Encinia’s patrol car would be released on Tuesday.
After viewing the video, Mathis said Bland was not “compliant” with the officer’s directions.
“Sandra Bland was very combative. It was not a model traffic stop. It was not a model person that was stopped,” Mathis said.
Mathis said he has requested scientific testing from the jail, including touch DNA evidence on the plastic trash bag that medical examiners in Harris County said Bland used to kill herself.
Mathis outlined some of the details of his investigation at a news conference Monday afternoon, hours after a separate news conference, where advocates for Bland raised questions into her death.
Advocates representing Bland’s relatives also said dash cam footage of her traffic stop in Prairie View contradicted information provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The family also called for the Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances of her arrest on July 10 and death three days later in the Waller County Jail, which officials have ruled a suicide.
“We know we’re standing at a crime scene,” said Jamal Bryant, an advocate for Bland’s relatives, outside the jail.
At a news conference, Bryant, a pastor at the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, said the footage, which had been shown to Bland’s relatives and their lawyer, but which has not yet been released publicly, showed the DPS trooper stopping her, walking to her car, and then speaking to her while she smoked a cigarette.
The trooper, 30-year-old Brian Encinia, told her to put it out, and she refused, Bryant said.
Bland began videotaping the stop with her cell phone, which enraged the trooper, Bryant said.
“You can’t see at any point where Bland attacks the officer,” Bryant said.
DPS officials have said that during the stop, Bland became “uncooperative” and kicked the officer. She was arrested and charged with assault of a public servant.
Cannon Lambert, a Chicago-based attorney representing the family, said Sunday on a Washington D.C. radio show that Encinia tried to pull Bland from the car when she reached for her cell phone. When that didn’t work, he pulled out a TASER and pointed it at her, and she voluntarily got out of the car, he said.
The dash cam did not record the entire encounter between the trooper and Bland.
I hope it’s enough to settle the arguments, but I suspect it will intensify them instead. We’ll see what it has to tell us.