Friday, July 24, 2015

~~Failure to Signal~ The Death of Sandra Bland Prairie View Texas~ September 15, 2016~~UPDATE!

September 15, 2016. From the Huffington Post. The family of Sandra Bland has reached a $1.9 million settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit, the family’s lawyer told CNN on Thursday.Attorney Cannon Lambert told the outlet that the settlement includes compensation for Bland’s death. The Texas Department of Public Safety will pay $100,000 of the settlement, with Waller County, Texas, paying the bulk of the rest, ABC13 reported.

July 27, 2015 - I am updating my opinions on the death of Sandra Bland as I read more.  I just read the autopsy report. "Death by hanging" is not supported by corroborating injuries.  Also, was Sandra Bland raped? Or was there a medical condition? More questions.....


July 24, 2015 -

I don't know if Sandra Bland took her life by hanging herself with a plastic garbage bag in her jail cell. Or if, as many are saying, she was murdered. I will though use the cliche' that from all I've read, fits; there was a perfect storm beginning to brew the day she was arrested, July 10, 2015, and for the next three days in Waller County, Texas.

I've never been arrested, and I've only gotten one speeding ticket in all my years of driving, but I do remember being stopped for having a brake light out many years ago. The cop issued me a warning ticket, and I was on my way.  I have friends though, who've been arrested, incarcerated, and in some cases, wrongfully arrested and incarcerated. I like to hear both sides of conflicting stories, and even then I know, and respect that the truth is very often in the middle.  From what I've read and know to this point about Sandra Bland and what lead to the end of her life, the middle is a very crowded place.
From Sandra Bland's facebook page. 
Sandra's mother and her on a road trip.

As I watched the 52 minute video, provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety where the Waller County officer stops Bland and begins to address her for not using her turn signal as she changed lanes in front of him, I tried hard to view the encounter within the confines of those minutes. But I kept getting popups on my screen about similar cases of traffic stops for minor violations gone wrong,  ending in violence and even death.  I wanted to take this one incident and view it unadulterated by the roar of online media and social media rants. In the last few days, I've learned that this particular area of Texas is notorious for traffic stops of a blurry nature, and ending badly for those stopped.  It's described as a pyramid between Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.  A triangle comes to my mind. 

According to Sandra Bland's family, her life had recently taken a positive turn. They are finding it hard to fathom that she would have taken her own life.  She'd gotten a new job at Prairieville A & M, where she'd graduated from with a bachelor's degree in agriculture.  Her family said she was "euphoric". 

As I watched the dash cam video, I felt my own mind racing to catch up with Bland's words. She was spinning.  In a hurry to resolve and get away from the oppression of being stopped for what any reasonable non law enforcement person would view as petty and a waste of time for all.  Bland stated the officer had been tailing her and she was trying to get out of his way.  A reasonable explanation of why she'd moved over to the next lane by any standards.  Cops are more often than not in a hurry.  

After an initial introduction at the side of Bland's car, the cop stated, "you seem irritated."  Was that a reasonable comment?  Or necessary?  In light of what eventually played out, well.... I could also sense the tension in the officer's voice starting ever so slightly to rise as more words were spoken.
From Bland's facebook page.

At one point, the officer says, "Would you mind putting out your cigarette, please?" Emphasis on "please".  Game on. Or so seems the consensus on social media, and I agree, at least in theory.

"I don't have to step out of my car."

"I am giving you a lawful order."

The cop takes out his taser and says, "I will light you up." Sandra Bland gets out of her car.

"Yeah, let's take this to court. "

"Put your phone down." 

"You feeling good about yourself?"

The cop, despite having had training to deal with mentally unstable behavior, was still a cop, first and foremost.  Charged with protecting others and himself from harm.  The dynamics of the stop was changing quickly.

Bland was refusing to put out her cigarette, giving the reason that she was in her own car.

"Am I under arrest?" 


"Why will you not tell me why I am being arrested?

"Because you are non-compliant."

"I'm not compliant because you just pulled me out of my car."

"That's all ya'll is, is some scared  cops."

More was said by the cop now that I've listened again that tells me he was getting very personal with Sandra Bland.  (I edit my posts as I learn more, because I write when the muse hits, and that means not writing perfectly...)

Bland was clearly working off emotion at this point. What was the temperature in Prairie View that day? Maybe 98 degrees? Add in the humidity and the asphalt, and a man with a badge and a loaded gun.

Bland, in her spin, seemed to jump to some erroneous conclusions from the words she began to use. Clearly, this cop was bearing the brunt of the sins of others who'd gone before him.  Had Bland been able to refrain from appearing irritated, which she clearly had a right to be, she would have went on her way.  No ticket.  Just a warning with no financial or legal entanglements. But just because a cop has a legal right to do many things, unless our human verbal responses are a threat, we are entitled to them.  But to the consequences? What happened to "preserve and protect"?
"I was trying to sign the fuckin' ticket"....11:51

"I can't wait to go to court."

"You gonna throw me to the floor?"

"Little ass Prairie View, Texas"

"Pussy ass cop"

A passerby takes video with a cell phone, and it appears the cop took Sandra Bland down by force to the ground.

Bland is taken to Waller county jail.  The charge "assaulting a public servant". The cop tells a female cop who appears on the scene that Bland kicked him.

Bland was alone in a cell that is designed to hold four inmates for three days.  Allegedly, she was placed in a cell alone because she was considered a "high risk to others". Wouldn't that include being a risk to herself, and if so, shouldn't she have been supervised more closely?  Those deficiencies and more at the Waller county jail are now being addressed from what I've read on various online news sites.

She has trouble using the phone system, that is, I am told by someone with direct experience, difficult to use for reasons I won't go into for now. No doubt, Bland is playing over the events that led her to this point. And so Bland spins. Or to use a clinical term, "obsesses".  Bland's youtube videos showed her talking about depression, and how especially in the black community depression is not talked about freely.  She has many videos posted, and I haven't watched them all, but this one belied sincerity and haunts me when I watch it knowing she is gone.

Depression is not simply sadness. It's not just unhappiness over loss or disappointment.  It's the replaying of negative events over and over and over in one's mind that can lead a person towards escaping the pain, altogether.

No light but the fluroscenct overhead in her cell. Was there a window to the yard?  I didn't see one.  Had Sandra Bland slept during these three days? Didn't look like she'd eaten at least not by a photo showing an uneaten sandwich on the table in her cell. On the morning of July 13 she uses the intercom system to asks for assistance in using the phone.  No one comes to help her.  An hour later she is found, hanging from a metal bar, a plastic trash bag wrapped around her neck.

Toxicology from the autopsy states Bland had a high level of marijuana in her system. Speculation is that she ingested  marijuana in her cell somehow, or perhaps before the cop approached her car three days earlier.

My only brother's death in January of 2014 was ruled suicide.   His wife and step son had gone to a local chamber of commerce meeting that evening and when they returned, they found my brother.  In his basement.  It appeared he'd hung himself. There was no note.

I've since gone through shock, and brief periods of acceptance. And lots of anger over inconsistencies and things that don't make sense.  I run those inconsistencies over in my mind, and try hard to turn off the switch that keeps me awake.

~For errors I may have made in facts, or exact quotes, I apologize in advance.