On Monday a grand jury decided that no felony crime was committed by the sheriff’s office or jailers in the treatment of a black woman who died in a Southeast Texas county jail last summer. Prosecutor Darrell Jordan said the Waller County grand jury didn’t reach a decision on whether the trooper who arrested 28-year-old Sandra Bland should face charges.
The grand jury will return in January to consider that issue. The Chicago-area woman was pulled over July 10 by a Texas state trooper for making an improper lane change and the dashcam video showed their interaction quickly became confrontational as she was arrested for assault.
Bland was taken in handcuffs to the county jail in nearby Hempstead, and remained there when she couldn’t raise about $500 for bail. Three days later she was discovered dead in her jail cell, hanging from a cell partition with a plastic garbage bag used as a ligature around her neck.
Bland’s relatives, along with supporters fueled by social media postings, questioned a medical examiner’s finding that Bland killed herself. In the days after her death, county authorities released video from the jail to dispel rumors and conspiracy theories that Bland was dead before she arrived at the jail or was killed while in custody.
Among evidence presented in the secret grand jury proceedings were the findings of a Texas Rangers’ investigation. The county’s district attorney, Elton Mathis Mathis said “There’s nothing in there that shows anything happened but she killed herself.”
Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court in Houston against the trooper, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Waller County and two jail employees. State lawyers have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
The Bland family attorneys contend Waller County jailers should have checked on her more frequently and that the county should have performed mental evaluations once she disclosed she had a history of attempting suicide. In her lawsuit, Reed-Veal also contends that the trooper who arrested her daughter, Brian Encinia, falsified the assault allegation to take Bland into custody and that jail personnel failed to keep her daughter safe.
Encinia, who in June completed a year-long probationary stint as a new trooper, has been on administrative duty since the Bland death.
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