Note: The Texas Department of Public Safety has re-uploaded the video above, in response to questions about glitches in an earlier version.
On Tuesday, Texas officials released a police dash cam video showing the July 10 arrest of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman from Illinois who died three days later in a Waller County jail cell, in a case ruled a suicide by local authorities. The footage shows Texas state trooper Brian Encinia aggressively confronting Bland after pulling her over for a traffic infraction and ordering her out of her car. “I’m going to drag you out of here,” he says, reaching into Bland’s vehicle. He then pulls out what appears to be a taser, points it at her and yells “I will light you up!” After Bland emerges, they walk out of the frame where the argument continues and Encinia eventually forces Bland to the ground violently as she continues to protest the arrest. (The confrontation can be heard on the police footage, and was already seen widely since late last week, after a different video recorded by a bystander appeared online.)
By Tuesday night, questions were swirling on social media about what appeared to be glitches in, or possibly edits to the dash cam video; a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety told the Guardian that he did not have an immediate explanation for the inconsistencies.
In a press conference on Tuesday, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said that Encinia failed to “maintain professionalism” throughout his interaction with Bland, and that he has been taken off the street and placed on administrative duty for duration of the investigation into Bland’s death. In answer to a reporter’s question, Texas state Sen. Royce West said that the dash cam footage showed that Bland should not have been taken into police custody.
The subsequent death of Bland has continued to raise troubling questions since she was found hanged on the morning of July 13. A medical examiner report and the county sheriff’s office ruled her death a suicide, but during the three days Bland spent in jail, Bland’s family members said they spoke to her on the phone about posting bail, and that a suicide seemed “unfathomable.” An hour before she was found, Bland had asked to use the phone again, county officials said.
On Monday, officials in Waller County released additional details about the morning Bland died, including surveillance video footage showing the hall outside of cell 95, where Bland was held. Citing interviews with family members and with the bail bondsman who was among the last to speak with Bland, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said it is “too early to make any kind of determination” and that “this investigation is still being treated just as it would be a murder investigation,” signaling that he had not ruled out any motives and would explore all leads and evidence, including videos, fingerprints in her cell, and the plastic bag found around her neck.
The Texas Rangers are currently leading the investigation into Bland’s death, with the FBI overseeing the process. The family’s attorney has also asked the US Department of Justice to open a federal investigation. Mathis said he will take the case to a grand jury, which is expected to be impaneled in August.
Bland’s death, which comes amid heightened public scrutiny over race and policing in America, is the latest episode in Waller County’s long history of racial strife. For family and friends, news of Bland’s death was sudden and unexpected, and it has raised questions about potential foul play, conditions at the jail, and the circumstances that led to her arrest. Bland herself often spoke out about police brutality, as chronicled in videos she posted on her Facebook page.
On the day she was jailed, Bland had been driving to to start a new job in Prairie View, Texas, where she had attended a historically black college. She was pulled over by Encinia for an improper lane change. The Department of Public Safety said Bland had been uncooperative and that she kicked Encinia, according to the Houston Chronicle. A bystander’s video capturing the arrest shows Bland being held down on the ground by an officer, shouting, “You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear!”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Cannon Lambert, an attorney for Bland’s family, said the dash cam footage “doesn’t give us any more understanding of what actually happened to her,” and that the jail surveillance footage offered no insight into her death.
This story has been updated.