Sandra Bland’s own cellphone video of her 2015 arrest in Texas has raised new questions about the evidence in the case and cast even more suspicion on her alleged jail cell suicide.
To some, the video confirms what they’ve long suspected: Bland was murdered.
“Four years after the brutal arrest and death of Sandra Bland, we just now learned that she filmed her arrest,” journalist and activist Shaun King wrote on his blog for Black America Web.
“I’ve shared the video, but I want to unpack and explain who hid it, why, and what the video shows us. Because here’s what we know – across the years – too many Black folk have been killed – and the people set free – based on lies – from Emmitt Till on down,” King said.
Cheryle Renee Moses, a candidate in the 2020 Georgia District 9 Senate race, took to Twitter to express her outrage.
“The new video released on Sandra Bland’s encounter with a white supremacist confirms the cop was not in fear. Sandra was ready to go to court and I believe she was killed. Period,” Moses said. “There is no way she would take her own life.”
Hope Rising wrote, “[Police Officer] Brian Encinia needs to be in prison. Sandra Bland was murdered.”
Bland’s cellphone video “has been released and we are forced to talk about the issues surrounding her tragic death,” wrote @kiloemcee, one of dozens of Twitter users who expressed outrage after seeing the new video.
“There is more miscarriage of justice in that part of his plea, the officer was allowed to simply walk away from his job. He committed perjury and false arrest,” @kiloemcee wrote.
The video, which surfaced this month and aired on television in Dallas, showed Encinia leaning into the open car door and ordering Bland out of the car.
At one point, Encinia points a stun gun and yells that he will “light you up.”
The cellphone shows that the incident, which occurred on July 10, 2015, concludes with Bland and Encinia outside of the vehicle and him ordering her to cease recording.
Three days later, Bland was found hanging in her cell and authorities ruled her death a suicide.
Dashcam and other cellphone recordings were made public in the weeks after Bland’s arrest and death. However, the newest video raised concerns for the attorney who represented Bland’s family in civil cases, he told the Chicago Tribune.
Cannon Lambert said he and other attorneys had not seen the video in evidence turned over as part of his civil cases, though he thought it could have been due to simple human error.
Regardless, the new video would not have made much of a difference in his civil cases against the state of Texas and the county jail where Bland died, which he settled for a total of nearly $2 million combined, because of legal limits on the amount of money the public agencies could pay, he said.
Rather, the new video raised questions about the special prosecutors’ handling of the criminal charge against Encinia, Lambert said.
“To me, what it really underscores is that the special prosecutors, who apparently had the video before they dropped the charge against Encinia, had ample evidence and opportunity to fully prosecute him like they told the family they were going to, but chose to cut bait and cut a deal,” he said.
Texas Department of Public Safety officials said in a statement they complied with their evidence requirements as part of the civil lawsuit. The video was referenced in a Texas Ranger report, and the report was made available during the civil lawsuit filed by Bland’s family, they said.
Department of Public Safety officials also said they provided the video in 2017 in response to a request from Brian Collister, who then worked for an Austin TV station and who was one of the reporters involved in the story that recently aired on a Dallas TV station that revealed the video.
Lambert said the video shows there was “no basis” to the officer’s initial claim that he was concerned for his safety.
King said the incident all began because of racial profiling.
“This stop was never about turn signals or traffic violations – it was about white power – and it burned him up when he got to the window of Sandra’s car, and saw that she was a proud, informed, strong Black woman – he was completely unnerved,” King said.
“And immediately, it became about power for him. And as soon as Sandra Bland really understood that this wasn’t just a traffic stop, she did something that we never knew she did – the police knew it. Local prosecutors knew it. And for four years they kept this a secret,” he said.
“When Sandra Bland saw that Officer Brian Encinia had crossed multiple lines, and was there to do much more than simply give her a ticket, she grabbed her phone and began filming him.
“The video is just 39 seconds long, but it’s literally the most important piece of evidence in the case not just against Brian Encinia, but against the Waller County jail, and the local prosecutors who concealed it.”
While the video doesn’t include her assault, King and others said it’s still painful to watch.
King breaks down facts including that the officer opening Bland’s door was illegal because he didn’t have reasonable suspicion of a crime.
In Encinia’s report, the officer said that he feared for his life and safety with Bland on multiple occasions.
“Of course, that was a lie,” King said.
“And when he said so on his official reports, he committed perjury… Brian Encinia never would’ve opened the car door of a white woman for failure to use her turn signal. He never would’ve taken out a stun gun on a white woman, turned it on, stuck it in her face, and told her he was gonna light her up. He never would’ve slammed a white woman on her head. And we know this because he literally never did any such thing to a white woman in his entire career. I checked,” King said.