On Friday, 28-year-old Sandra Bland, a police
accountability activist, was was pulled over by a
Texas police officer for failing to use her turn
signal before changing lanes. Three days later,
she was found dead, hanging in her jail cell.
She was arrested for allegedly assaulting a
police officer during a traffic stop on Friday but
by Monday she was found dead by hanging in
her jail cell.
The sheriff’s office is maintaining that the
woman committed suicide, but many, including
her family, are categorically refusing this official
story, especially after a witness’ video of her
arrest was released online.
“You just slammed my head into the
ground. Do you not even care about that?
I can’t even hear!” Bland is heard saying
in the video.
“You slammed me into the ground and
everything,” she repeats as the officers take her
Bland, who is described as having been a happy
and strong woman, was arrested for assaulting a
police officer, despite video showing that she
was the one who was assaulted.
“She informed me she had been arrested. She
said they couldn’t tell her what she had been
arrested for until an hour before she had called.
She then proceeded to say the officer had put
his knees in her back and that she thought her
shoulder was broken,” her sister, Shante
Needham, told ABC. “She said her bond was
$515. And I told her that I would work
on getting her out.”
Bland was outspoken against police brutality
and racism faced by people of color in the
United States. She had recently moved
to Texas to begin a job as a college outreach
“I will admit it is strange someone who
had everything going for her would have
taken her own life,” Waller County
District Attorney Elton Mathis said.
“That’s why it’s very important a
thorough investigation is done and that
we get a good picture of what Ms. Bland
was going through the last four or five
days of her life.
“If there was something nefarious, or if
there was some foul play involved, we’ll
get to the bottom of that,” he said.
But with police brutality and racism in such
sharp focus in the US and amidst the rise
of citizens videotaping their encounters
with police, a practice that’s revealing more and
more inconsistencies with official police
accounts, it is no wonder that many are
skeptical of the official story.
“The family of Sandra Bland is confident that
she was killed and did not commit suicide. The
family has retained counsel to investigate
Sandy’s death,” a statement from a law firm
representing her family stated. The statement
also asked Twitter users to use the hashtag
#JusticeForSandra “so that our family can get
justice for her.”
Twitter community has fuelled the conversation
about circumstances surrounding Bland’s death.
#SandraBland has almost 200,000 mentions on
Twitter. The hashtags #JusticeforSandy and
#SandySpeaks are also being widely used to
share stories about a death that many say
“doesn’t add up”.
“Who goes on a job interview, gets hired,
and commits suicide in a jail cell after
being arrested [sic] for a routine traffic
stop?” @ stopbeingfamous tweeted.
Another Twitter user talking about Bland’s death
is Bianca Davis, who attended university with
“My sorority sister Sandy Bland died in police
custody! Spread the Word!” she tweeted, gaining
more than 500 retweets.
“The authorities can’t pass her off, say
she was gang member or a drug dealer.
She was an educated African woman
who had goals and dreams – she was a
productive citizen,” Davis said, noting
that Bland was passionate both about
social justice and her Christian faith.
“Now this young woman is dead, and
they are trying to call it a suicide. But
those who knew her know she wasn’t
that type of person”.
Even more eyebrows have been being raised
after the Daily Kos reported that Waller County
Sheriff Glenn Smith, who made the first public
comments about Bland’s in-custody death, was
suspended for documented cases of racism
when he was chief of police in Hempstead,
Texas, in 2007. After serving his suspension,
more complaints of racism came in, and Smith
was fired as their chief of police.
The FBI is now coordinating with local police
to investigate Bland’s death.
The day after Bland was found dead in her
Texas jail cell, 18-year-old Kindra Darnell
Chapman also reportedly hanged herself
inside a jail cell in Alabama. The teen was
arrested on Tuesday for allegedly stealing a cell
phone and was booked around 6:22 AM. She
was found unresponsive at 7:50, after reportedly
hanging herself with a bed sheet. Chapman was
pronounced dead at the hospital.