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New Sandra Bland Video Reopens Conversation On Documenting Police Encounters

Cellphone footage taken by Sandra Bland shows her encounter with state Trooper Brian Encinia that led to her arrest in 2015. (Investigative Network/On Point Screenshot)
Cellphone footage taken by Sandra Bland shows her encounter with state Trooper Brian Encinia that led to her arrest in 2015. (Investigative Network/On Point Screenshot)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

In police shootings and controversial arrests, law enforcement usually tells the first story. But what happens when more video is released long after the incident?


Brian Collister, chief investigative reporter and CEO of the Investigative Network, a nonprofit investigative reporting organization. ( @BrianCollister)

Cannon Lambert, lawyer who has represented the Bland family since the death of Sandra. ( @CannonLambertS1)

Paul Butler, professor at Georgetown University Law Center and former federal prosecutor. Author of “ Chokehold: Policing Black Men.” ( @LawProfButler)

Editor’s Note: This video contains language and footage that may be upsetting to some viewers.

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Investigative Network: “ The Family of Sandra Bland — Who Died In A Waller County Jail Cell — Is Calling For A Re-Opening Of The Criminal Investigation Into Bland’s Arrest And Death After Seeing Footage For The First Time” — “New cellphone footage from the now infamous traffic stop of Sandra Bland shows her perspective when a Texas state trooper points a taser and yells, ‘I will light you up!’

“Bland, 28, was found dead three days later in her Waller County jail cell near Houston. Her death was ruled a suicide.

“The new video — released as part of a WFAA exclusive in partnership with the Investigative Network — fuels the Bland family’s suspicions that Texas officials withheld evidence in her controversial arrest and, later, her death.

“Until now, the trooper’s dashcam footage was believed to be the only full recording of the July 2015 traffic stop, which ended in Bland’s arrest. The trooper claimed he feared for his safety during the stop.”

New York Magazine: “ Why Are So Many ‘Bad Apple’ Police Officers Bad in the Same Way?” — “Brian Encinia said that he ordered Sandra Bland out of her vehicle, forced her to the ground, and handcuffed her on July 10, 2015, because he feared for his safety. ‘My safety was in jeopardy at more than one time,’ the former–Texas Department of Safety trooper told the agency’s Office of Inspector General. ‘I had a feeling that anything could’ve been either retrieved or hidden within her area of control.’

“But newly released footage contradicts this account. On Monday, reporters with Dallas television station WFAA aired a 39-second cell phone video captured by Bland that had not been previously made public. It depicts an irate Encinia threatening to ‘light … up’ the black 28-year-old with his stun gun and demanding that she exit her car and “get off the phone,” all while Bland asks him repeatedly why a “failure to signal” called for such treatment. ‘The video shows that [Encinia] wasn’t in fear of his safety,’ Cannon Lambert, a lawyer for Bland’s family, told the New York Times. ‘You could see that it was a cell phone. He was looking right at it.’

“Bland was found dead in a Waller County jail cell three days later; authorities ruled her death a suicide. Nationwide protests followed. The Naperville, Illinois, native — who, before her arrest, was en route to start a new job at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas — became the most prominent woman to die in police custody as a result of police violence during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

New York Times: “ Sandra Bland, It Turns Out, Filmed Traffic Stop Confrontation Herself” — “Sandra Bland had just driven in from Illinois to start a new job in Texas when a state trooper pulled her over for failing to signal a lane change. As the exchange grew angry and the officer pulled out a stun gun, she recorded a 39-second cellphone video whose public broadcast this week has prompted calls for a renewed investigation into her arrest and death nearly four years ago.

“Ms. Bland, a 28-year-old African-American from the Chicago area, was taken into custody in southeast Texas following the confrontational 2015 traffic stop and was found hanging in a jail cell three days later in what was officially ruled a suicide. The case, which drew international attention, intensified outrage over the treatment of black people by white police officers and was considered a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The video surfaced for the first time publicly Monday night in an investigative report on the Dallas television station WFAA that included interviews with Ms. Bland’s family and supporters, who accused officials of concealing information that they said should have been made public early in the investigation.”

Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.