Detailed Report of Woman Found Dead in Texas Jail Cell

A Texas prosecutor says it's too early to draw any conclusions about the death of a black woman whose family disputes authorities' finding that she hanged herself in a jail cell.

Relatives of Sandra Bland, a Chicago-area woman found dead in a Texas jail cell last week, have ordered an independent autopsy, their attorney says.

Authorities say the 28-year-old Bland hanged herself with a plastic bag three days after being pulled over for a traffic violation and arrested for allegedly kicking an officer during the stop.

A breakdown of the case:


Bland, who was from Naperville, Illinois, was stopped for failing to signal a lane change on July 10 in Waller County. She was in Texas interviewing for a job at nearby Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college from which she graduated in 2009.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says the state trooper who pulled her over planned to give her a written warning, but she became uncooperative and argumentative. She was arrested and taken to the jail in Hempstead, about 60 miles northwest of Houston.

She was still incarcerated, awaiting posting of bond, when she was found dead July 13 in her cell. A medical examiner ruled her death a suicide caused by asphyxiation.

Sheriff's Capt. Brian Cantrell says a plastic garbage bag, used to line a trash container in the cell, was used as a ligature by tying it to a partition to a bathroom in the cell. The bag had been approved for use in the jail by a state jail inspector, Cantrell said.


Family members and friends insist Bland was looking forward to a new job at her former school and that she gave no indication she was in such an emotional state that she would kill herself. Family attorney Cannon Lambert says some relatives believe she was killed, and they are seeking more information.

However, Bland had posted a video to her Facebook page in March, saying she was suffering from "a little bit of depression as well as PTSD," or post-traumatic stress disorder. Friend and mentor LaVaughn Mosley of Prairie View believes Bland was just venting after a bad day.


Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis says the case is being examined as thoroughly as a murder investigation.

He said no cameras were in the jail cell where Bland was found dead. A video from a camera monitoring the hall outside her cell shows no one entered or left it between the time she last spoke with deputies through an intercom system, asking about making a phone call, and when her body was discovered about an hour later. The hard drive containing the original video has been turned over to the FBI to examine for any manipulation. Mathis has also ordered forensic testing of the cell.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says the trooper who pulled Bland over violated traffic-stop procedures and the department's courtesy policy. The trooper is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

A video from the trooper's dashcam was expected to be released Tuesday. Bland said it would show a restricted view of the stop because the officer's car was pointed directly ahead and much of the activity was inside Bland's car and then to the side.

Authorities said it was possible Bland was texting, or sending an email or trying to record the trooper on her cellphone. The phone also has been turned over to the FBI. Mathis said it was "not a model traffic stop ... and it was not a model person that was stopped on a traffic stop."


The Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating. The county district attorney has said the matter will be turned over to a grand jury, which does not meet again until August.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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