( 4UMF NEWS ) Sandra Bland’s Hanging Sparks Outrage:
Authorities say a Chicago woman hanged herself inside a Texas jail cell this week, but her outraged loved ones say she had no reason to take her life.
Sandra Bland, 28, was days away from starting a new job in Texas when she was arrested Friday for allegedly assaulting an officer, police said.
She was found dead in her jail cell in Waller County on Monday from “self-inflicted asphyxiation,” Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith said in a statement.
An autopsy classified her death as suicide by hanging, Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Rudisill Bentley said.
But Bland’s friends and family say the Illinois woman, who was about to start a new job in Texas at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M, would never kill herself.
“Based on the Sandy that I knew, that’s unfathomable to me,” her sister Sharon Cooper told reporters Thursday. “That’s the word that keeps ringing true for me. That’s very challenging to believe.”
Bland’s mysterious death has triggered Internet uproar and an online campaign petitioning the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the investigation from the Texas Rangers.
Posts from furious supporters featuring #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland hashtags were trending Thursday on Twitter after the suicide ruling.
“She was planning for the future, and she came here to start for that future, so to say that she killed herself is totally absurd,” friend Lavaghn Mosley told KPRC-TV.
Another longtime friend, LaNitra Dean, told ABC 7 that Bland was “strong mentally and spiritually.”
Bland was booked in Waller County Jail, about 60 miles from Houston, after her Friday arrest.
She was driving near Prairie View’s campus, where she had been recently hired to serve as a student ambassador, when a Texas state trooper pulled her over for allegedly failing to signal while changing lanes, her family said.
Video purportedly of the arrest has surfaced, appearing to show Bland on the ground being restrained by several officers. Waller County officials did not immediately confirm the footage, which was taken by a bystander.
“You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear!” Bland can be heard saying.
It’s unclear why Bland was outside of her car during a routine traffic stop. The video was recorded after Bland was already on the ground.
“That’s what’s so frustrating,” said attorney Cannon Lambert, Sr., who is representing the family. “We don’t understand that, but we want to.”
Bland was last seen in her jail cell at 7 a.m. Monday, Smith said. She was found dead about two hours later. Smith said CPR was “immediately started” and medics were alerted.
“I just couldn’t be there for my little sister in the way that I would have hoped to,” Cooper said.
Her heartbroken family urged those outraged by the death not to “jump to conclusions” and wait for answers from the investigation.
Cooper called on supporters not to politicize the tragedy.
“Ultimately as time goes on, because it will, we will be left to pick up those pieces,” she said.
Bland, the second youngest of four sisters, was living with her family in Naperville, Ill., before she was hired at Prairie View. She was arrested at least four times between 2009 and 2012 for traffic violations, including driving while intoxicated, records show.
Bland was charged in 2009 with possession of marijuana, but that case was later dismissed, Harris County District Clerk spokesman Bill Murphy said.
In 2010, she was convicted of DWI and possession of marijuana in Harris County, Texas. Bland was arrested again in April 2012 for driving with an invalid license, according to records. The disposition of that case was not immediately available Thursday. It’s unclear if Bland’s license was revoked or suspended at the time of her arrest last Friday.
Lambert was reached for comment, but did not immediately respond. He declined to comment earlier when asked by a reporter if Bland had any previous brushes with the law.
“We’re not focused on anything that preceded that,” Lambert said.
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told KPRC-TV that the circumstances surrounding the suicide were bizarre.