Death of woman in a Texas jail questioned by Chicago-area family: reports

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 16, 2015 3:46 PM

(Reuters) - The Texas Rangers are investigating the death of an Illinois woman who a Texas sheriff's office said apparently hanged herself in a jail cell after being taken into custody after a traffic stop, officials said on Thursday.

    Relatives and friends of Sandra Bland, who was African-American, said they believe her death was suspicious and do not believe the official version given by a Texas county that they said has a history of racial intolerance, Chicago broadcaster WLS reported.

The Texas Rangers, a special statewide police and investigation agency, said they were investigating the death but declined to comment on the details.

Bland was found dead in a jail cell in Waller County on Monday morning. The 28-year-old, from the Chicago suburb of Naperville, had been arrested on Friday for allegedly assaulting an officer during a traffic stop in Prairie View, northwest of Houston, WLS reported.

Bland had just moved to Texas for a new job with her alma mater, Texas Prairie View A & M University, and the arrest took place near the school, WLS and other Chicago media reported.

"This family is looking to understand what happened," attorney Cannon Lambert, who is representing Bland's family, said at a news conference on Thursday, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

Bland was arraigned over the weekend and her bond was set at $5,000, the Tribune reported. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston performed an autopsy on Tuesday and ruled the death a suicide by hanging, the Tribune reported.

A number of family members told Chicago news outlets that they could not believe Bland had killed herself, based on their knowledge of her personality and circumstances.

(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)