Sandra Bland was on her way to a new job at her alma mater Prairie View A&M when she was arrested during a routine traffic stop for changing lanes without signaling.
Two days later, while still in police custody, she was found dead, reportedly from hanging herself. The family and an outraged public have questioned the official account ever since. Although they have called for peace and a limit to social media outrage, the family is saddened by their loved one’s death and hopes to find out the truth.
Attorney Cannon Lambert and Sandra Bland’s family spokesperson Sharon Cooper have called for an independent autopsy as happens often when families don’t believe the official account. Lambert and the family say they have met with Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, The Texas Rangers and the Texas’ Lt. Governor. The family has also viewed the dashcam video of Bland’s traffic stop and arrest.
Lambert says that the dashcam reveals that when she was stopped, Bland provided a driver’s license and insurance as requested, but the situation grew tense when Bland, still sitting in her car, expressed some anger at being pulled over, then refused to put out a cigarette. At that point, the officer opened her door and tried to get her out of the car while she reached for her phone to record the encounter. When the officer brought out a Taser, Bland got out of the car on her own volition. Once she was outside of the car, he asked for her to put the phone down and attempted to handcuff her.
“It is disheartening, its disappointing and its hurtful,” says Cooper. “We are an extremely close-knit family. Sandra was the fourth of five girls and was only a year older than [the youngest.] We are very appreciative of Cannon and his legal guidance but the rest of the world is really shining a light on an issue that is ongoing and requires more dialogue. We are just frustrated that we couldn’t be there to protect our baby girl. She called home on Saturday to let us know she was in jail. That was the last time we spoke to her.”
Lambert says that in the Texas jail where she was being held on Friday night, there is a phone that arrestees can use at the front desk. If they don’t reach anyone, they are escorted to a cell, but afterwards can use a phone in the cell if they have money on the jail’s books. But obviously, if they don’t reach anyone in the initial call, they can’t get any money for another call.
“It’s a Catch 22,” says Lambert.
Bland did call her sisters Saturday afternoon after spending the night in jail. She spoke to her older sister and said she was concerned about the manner in which she had pulled over. A $500 bond was required for her release, as she was charged with assault on a public officer. Bland expressed in the dashcam video that she made the illegal lane change because she was trying to get out the way of the police car coming up behind her.
Unfortunately, Lambert says the alleged assault on the officer took place outside of the camera’s view.
An independent autopsy report was done Sunday night but the results won’t be available for a day or two.