Newly released video directly contradicts the version of Sandra Bland’s arrest given by police. Police had this video, but did not release it or admit that it existed until Monday evening.
Who is Sandra Bland?
Bland was arrested by Texas state police Officer Brian Encinia during a traffic stop in 2015, after she allegedly failed to use a turn signal. Three days after being imprisoned in Waller County Jail near Houston, she was found dead in her jail cell from an apparent hanging. Her death was ruled a suicide. She was 28.
Police released dashcam footage after the incident. For years this was the only known recording of the confrontation. Not even Bland’s own family knew that there was another recording.
Bland’s death galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.
Bland’s family filed a federal wrongful death suit against Waller County and Texas DPS. The suit was settled in 2016 for $1.9 million.
What does the new video show?
The new video, released on Monday evening by WFAA-TV in partnership with the Investigative Network, was taken by Bland on her own cellphone during her arrest. It’s only 39 seconds long, but it includes relevant information that directly contradicts the story given by police.
The officer who arrested Bland claimed that he feared that his own safety “was in jeopardy at more than one time” during the traffic stop. The new video undermines this claim.
In the video, the officer is yelling for Bland to get out of the car, while she asks him why she’s being apprehended.
“You just opened my car door. So you’re threatening to drag me out of my own car,” Bland said in a calm but determined voice.
“Get out of the car!” the officer yelled, drawing his taser and pointing it at Bland. “I will light you up. Get out!”
Bland complied and got out of the car. The officer ordered her to get off her phone, but she responded, “I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property.”
He yelled at her again to put her phone down. This time she apparently complied, because the recording abruptly ends.
The officer, Brian Encinia, was initially indicted on a charge of perjury for claiming that he only asked Bland to leave her car for safety reasons. This charge was later dropped as part of an agreement under which Encinia agreed to permanently end his law enforcement career.
At the time of the agreement, Encinia had already been fired by the Texas state police for his role in the Bland incident.
The same 39 seconds of this altercation can be seen roughly three minutes into the original dashcam footage released by police. However, since that footage is further back and not in the car it doesn’t show escalation on the part of Encinia as clearly.
EDITED: Sandra Bland traffic stop
What happens now?
Bland’s family is calling for a new investigation into her death in light of the new evidence. Her sister, Shante Needham, accused police of having “an extremely, extremely good cover-up system.”
The Bland family’s attorney, Cannon Lambert, told the Investigative Network that he had not been shown the video during discovery.
Shawn McDonald, one of the special prosecutors assigned to the grand jury investigation, said it would be “ridiculous” to retry Encinia, adding that he himself had seen the video three years ago.