The family of a black woman found dead in a Texas jail three days after a confrontation with a white state trooper filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Tuesday against the officer and other officials, saying it was a last resort after being unable to get enough information about the case.
Bland, a 28-year-old Chicago-area woman, was found dead in her Waller County jail cell in Hempstead on July 13. Bland's family and others also have criticized Trooper Brian Encinia, who stopped Bland for failing to signal a lane change. Video of the stop shows that the confrontation quickly escalated after Encinia asked Bland to put out her cigarette.
"This family's motivation is that they don't want to see this sort of thing happen again to another family," family attorney Cannon Lambert said during a news conference in Houston.
Bland's mother Geneva Reed-Veal, holding a Bible during the news conference, added: "The bottom line is she never should have been inside the jail cell. Period."
Lambert called on the Department of Justice to launch its own investigation, saying the case needs a fresh and unbiased look. He said information the family has received from law enforcement has been inconsistent, which raises concerns about what has and hasn't been given to them.
Authorities said Bland hanged herself with a garbage bag inside her jail cell. Her family has questioned that finding.
The lawsuit names the Texas Department of Public Safety, trooper Brian Encinia, the Waller County Sheriff's Office and two jailers, Lambert said. The 46-page lawsuit seeks a jury trial for unspecified damages.
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Bland was in Prairie View, northwest of Houston, when she was stopped for a minor traffic infraction on July 10. Dashcam video shows the confrontation swiftly escalated after she objected to being told to put out her cigarette. Encinia at one point is seen holding a stun gun as he says, "I will light you up!" after Bland refuses to get out of her car. Bland eventually was arrested for allegedly assaulting the white trooper.
Bland's death came after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or die in police custody.