Texas senator to release video in jail death case

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 21, 2015 12:54 PM

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A Texas lawmaker will release a trooper's dashboard camera video on Tuesday that sheds light on the arrest of a Chicago-area woman who died three days later in jail, his spokesman said.

State Senator Royce West will make the video public at Prairie View A&M University, near where school employee Sandra Bland, 28, was arrested, said his spokesman, Kelvin Bass.

The July 13 death of Bland, from the Chicago suburb of Naperville, was originally ruled a suicide. But her family expressed doubt that she would have killed herself - she had just moved to Texas for a promising new job - and Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said on Monday he would investigate the incident as a homicide.

Demonstrators have protested outside the jail where Bland died and her case has been taken up by activists who say it is the latest example of racial bias and excessive force by U.S. law enforcement.

Jailhouse video released on Monday showed a space of about 90 minutes between the last physical check-up of Bland in her cell, and when she was discovered dead, hanging by a plastic trash bag at about 9 a.m.

The "dashcam" recording of the arrest has not been released yet but Mathis and Bland family lawyer Cannon Lambert said on Monday it showed Bland being pulled over for a minor traffic violation.

When the trooper, who has not been identified and has been put on desk duty for allegedly violating protocol in the arrest, asked Bland to put our her cigarette, she refused and the officer asked her to get out of the car.

In the rest of the video, Lambert said, the officer pulled out his Taser, Bland got out of the car, and then they are out of view and Bland can be heard protesting her arrest.

In a separate case, in Alabama on Tuesday, protesters rallied outside the jail in Homewood, a suburb of Birmingham, questioning the death of an 18-year-old woman that police say committed suicide in jail last week, local media reported.

Kindra Chapman, who had been arrested on robbery charges, died in custody on July 14, according to WBRC-TV and the news website AL.com. Authorities said she was found in her cell with a bed sheet tied around her neck in a suicide attempt.

(Writing by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Editing by Ben Klayman and Doina Chiacu)