Texas county releases video to dispel rumors over woman's death

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 28, 2015 3:20 PM

By David Bailey and Jon Herskovitz

(Reuters) - A Texas county released video on Tuesday of Sandra Bland arriving at Waller County Jail, as officials sought to dispel rumors circulating on social media that she was already dead by the time records show she was booked.

Bland, who was black, was found hanged in an apparent suicide in a cell three days after her July 10 arrest for a minor traffic offense, an incident activists say is another example of police brutality toward minorities.

The hacker group Anonymous has tried to take down county websites, and some local officials have received death threats, Waller County Judge Trey Duhon told a news conference.

There were untrue rumors that Bland had died before she was booked, said Duhon, the county's top administrator.

"This is Sandra Bland. There's no other way around it. This video has not been altered or doctored in any way. These are the raw files," he said.

Some of the rumors included accusations that Bland's body was placed on the ground for a mugshot with her eyes open. They also said the background color in the photo looks the same as that of the jail's floor.

The videos spanning several hours came from digital video recorders, Duhon said. They show Bland arriving at the jail and a jail employee speaking with her as they filled out forms.

In one excerpt, a state trooper can be seen filling out a report in the background, while the jail employee talks to Bland in an intake area. Another excerpt shows Bland standing for a mug shot.

The video also shows her being arraigned by a justice of the peace. One clip shows her trying to make several calls over a period of about 22 minutes.

"There’s no footage that indicates to me that Ms. Bland was treated unfairly or was mishandled or mistreated in any way, shape or form while she was in the Waller County Jail," Duhon said.

Bland was pulled over by white Texas state trooper Brian Encinia near Prairie View, northwest of Houston, for failing to signal a lane change.

The stop escalated into a verbal altercation after Encinia asked Bland to put out a cigarette and she refused. Bland was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer, a felony.

Bland was found hanging in her jail cell on the morning of July 13, with a plastic trash bag around her neck.

Bland was originally from the Chicago area and several Illinois lawmakers have called for an investigation into her death.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Beech)