On July 10, a Texas trooper pulled a woman over for failing to signal that she was changing lanes. What happened next is disputed, but she was arrested, and three days later, she died in a jail cell, prompting her death to be treated as a murder investigation. Now, the dashcam video of the arrest of Sandra Bland might provide some answers as to how a 28-year-old black woman who had just moved from Illinois was found hanging in a Waller County cell.
The 52-minute-long dashcam video begins with an officer giving a woman in a red car a warning for speeding. The officer returns to his car, makes a U-turn, and soon a silver car driving in front of him switches lanes without signaling. He pulls her over, and the driver moves to the side of the street and stops. The trooper walks to the passenger side of the vehicle, not the driver's side, and explains that he stopped her because she failed to signal a lane change and asks for her driver's license and registration. Then he asks, "What's wrong?" No reply can be heard. The officer asks how long she's been in Texas, and the driver says she got here yesterday. The officer asks several more questions and then asks her to give him a few minutes, and he returns to his car.
After several minutes, the trooper returns, this time at the driver's side. "OK, ma'am. You OK?" he asks. "I'm waiting on you, this is your job," she replies. The officer tells her that she seems irritated, and she says she is because she was pulled over for getting out of his way and that she's going to get a ticket for it. "Are you done?" he asks. She responds that she was answering his question, and he says, "Would you mind putting your cigarette out please?" Bland says, "I'm in my car; I don't have to put out my cigarette." And that's when the trooper says, "You can step on out now."
According to the Bland family's lawyer, Cannon Lambert, that's when the confrontation began. Trooper Brian Encinia's written affidavit about the arrest states that he asked Bland to exit her car "to further conduct a safe traffic investigation" and claims she became uncooperative. Encinia wrote that he removed Bland from the car, placed her in handcuffs for "officer safety," and Bland began swinging her elbows and kicking him. The affidavit then states that he used force to bring her to the ground, and she was arrested for assault on a public servant. But Cannon Lambert, the Bland family's lawyer, says there is no reason Bland should have ever had to get out of her vehicle — especially not because a trooper was irritated that she wouldn't put out her cigarette.
When the trooper tells her her to step out of the car, Bland says she doesn't have to. He opens the driver's door, as Bland says, "You don't have the right to do that," and he replies that he does and that he will remove her from the vehicle. She says that she doesn't have to do anything other than identify herself and asks if he's really going to remove her from the car for a failure to signal a lane change. The situation grows increasingly tense; Bland says she's going to call her lawyer, and the officer reaches in the car to "yank her out."
Bland tells the officer he doesn't have the right to touch her, and that she's not under arrest. He says she is, and she asks for what. The officer does not reply as to why she is under arrest, calls for another unit, and continues to yell at her to get out of the car. She repeatedly asks why she is being apprehended, and he repeatedly does not answer, only saying that he's giving her a "lawful order." He pulls something — what some have identified as a Taser — points it at her and screams, "GET OUT OF THE CAR!" At this, she asks if he's seriously going to stun her and steps out of the car, still in disbelief that this is happening over a failure to signal.
The two then disappear from the dashcam's view, though she pulled out her phone and began recording, as he tells her to get off the phone. She eventually sets the phone down, and the audio devolves into him demanding several things ("go over there," "turn around," etc.), and her repeating questions ("for a failure to signal?" "you feel real good about yourself, don't you?") She asks again why she's being arrested, and he continues to refuse to answer, only saying that he's giving her a lawful order. Then he says, "You are not compliant." They yell back and forth, the sound of handcuffs can be heard, and he yells "Stop moving!" She asks, "Oh, I can't wait until we go to court."
The argument continues, and Bland tells the officer he's about to break her wrists, as he keeps moving her around. You can hear a struggle and Bland screaming and crying. The officer yells at her to stop, and says, "If you would stop, I would tell you." (Presumably, he's saying that he'd tell her why she was being arrested, something he so far has refused to answer.) A female officer seems to arrive, as another woman's voice can be heard in the background. Bland calls Encinia names, asks if he feels manly, and says she has epilepsy, to which he replies, "Good."
Soon, you can hear the officer telling someone, "You need to leave," which is likely the bystander who was filming the first video that was released. The officer tells Bland she's going to jail for resisting arrest. She talks about her head being slammed into the ground, and thanks the witness for recording. As she's put into the police cruiser, officers begin searching her car. One officer asks Encinia if he's hurt, and he says no.
It's important to note here that the affidavit written by Encinia said Bland swung her elbows at him and kicked him in the shin, giving him pain in his right leg and small cuts on his hand. But this was never shown in the video, and the officer 1) said he wasn't hurt, and 2) never said to stop attacking him or anything close to that, bringing into question the legitimacy of the written statement.
The video continues for about 30 more minutes, as the trooper is seemingly explaining what happened to a supervisor or another officer as Bland's car is towed away.
According to NewsOne Now, a morning show hosted by Roland Martin, Sen. Rodney Ellis said that different people will have different perspectives of what transpired in the dashcam video. That being said, he continued, a lot of lessons will be learned. He told Martin:
I think that with the benefit of hindsight, both parties — one trained for issues like this — both parties could have handled it a bit better.
A couple of other videos were released prior to the dash cam video. The first was allegedly shot by a bystander, and shows two officers holding Bland to the ground as she yells that they smashed her head into the ground. Another video was released recently that showed footage from inside the jail. The camera was located outside of Bland's cell and does not provide a look in at what actually happened; the video does show jailers discovering Bland's body and attempting to revive her.
But despite these videos, there are still too many unanswered questions. The dashcam video, Lambert said, according to the LA Times, "doesn’t give us any more understanding of what actually happened to her.”
Watch the entire video for yourself here:
Images: Texas Department of Public Safety/YouTube