Evidence Withheld in Sandra Bland Case

Cellphone video recorded by Sandra Bland, a Black woman found dead in a Texas jail in 2015 following a confrontational traffic stop, shows for the first time her perspective as a white state trooper draws his stun gun and points it at close range while ordering her out of the car.

The 39-second clip revealed by the Investigative Network, a nonprofit news organization in Texas, aired Monday night on Dallas television station WFAA. Bland was found hanging in her jail cell outside Houston three days after her arrest.

FILE – This undated file handout photo provided by the Waller County Sheriff’s Office shows Sandra Bland. The first sweeping police reforms proposed in Texas following Bland’s 2015 death in a rural jail after a confrontational traffic stop would revamp racial profiling laws and officer training. But the “Sandra Bland Act” filed Thursday, March 2, 2017, faces a difficult road in the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature. One police association has already criticized the bill as misguided. (Waller County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

Her death and dashcam video showing Trooper Brian Encinia trying to pull the 28-year-old Chicago-area woman out of her vehicle became flashpoints in the debate over the treatment of black people by police. The clip begins at the most dramatic moment of the July 2015 traffic stop near Prairie View A&M University: Encinia has opened Bland’s car door and draws his stun gun as she tries to steady her phone’s camera. The flashlights on the stun gun flick on and Encinia yells, “Get out of the car! I will light you up. Get out!”

Bland exits the car and continues to record Encinia as he orders her onto the sidewalk. The stun gun is still pointed at her and the flashlights remain on. He instructs her to get off the phone, to which Bland replies, “I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property.”

The video ends seconds later after Encinia tells her to put the phone down. The emergence of the cellphone video raised questions about who had seen it until now. Cannon Lambert, an attorney for the Bland family who settled lawsuits against the state and county jail that totaled nearly $2 million combined, said he never saw the clip until it was recently shared by a reporter. Lambert said he didn’t see the video in evidence turned over by investigators, which he said he wanted to believe was just human error.

Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman, who in 2017 carried the “Sandra Bland Act” that the family criticized for being weakened before signed into law, said Monday night he would look into why Bland’s family never saw the footage. “It is troubling that a crucial piece of evidence was withheld from Sandra Bland’s family and legal team in their pursuit of justice,” Coleman said in a statement.