The death of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old woman who was arrested during a traffic stop in Texas, has caught the attention of the nation at a time when race relations seem as tense as ever. According to police reports, Bland hanged herself in a Waller County jail cell in Hempstead, Texas, on July 13 after being arrested three days earlier. We've learned a lot about the tense arrest and Bland's time in jail, thanks to a dash cam video and a voicemail that have been released by authorities, but they still leave many questions unanswered.
For the most part, we know how Bland ended up in jail. That Friday afternoon, she was pulled over for failing to signal a lane change. From there, official reports say that Bland became "argumentative and uncooperative." Dash cam footage shows Bland and the police officer arguing over her cigarette (the officer wanted her to put it out). Separate cell phone footage then shows the officer pinning Bland to the ground after a physical altercation.
The details of the traffic stop still aren't totally clear, but they seem significantly more obvious than the specific details of Bland's experience while in jail. All we have to go on is a voicemail that has been released and official reports from authorities. In the voicemail, which Bland left one of her friends from inside the jail, she sounds discouraged and confused, unsure of how she went from being pulled over on the side of the road to being held in jail on a $5,000 bond.
Here's what authorities have to say about those three days: First and foremost, the Waller County Sheriff's Office has released forms Wednesday that suggest Bland had attempted suicide before. The forms, which were allegedly filled out by her upon her arrival, indicate Bland had marked she attempted suicide in 2014 after the loss of a baby. The forms also claim Bland had felt "very depressed" in the past, although a separate document showed Bland marked she had not thought about killing herself on the day of her arrest. Bland's family is challenging the legitimacy of the forms, saying they had no knowledge of depression or an attempted suicide in her past.
Throughout Bland's time in jail, she reportedly struggled to make contact with her friends and family. According to these reports, she had to be released from her cell multiple times because she couldn't get the phone in her cell to work, challenges that authorities said left her frustrated. On the morning of her death, she reportedly knocked on the cell door to ask to make a phone call elsewhere because she couldn't get her in-cell phone to work, although there was no record of her making that call.
Other details from the morning of Bland's death seem to reveal her behavior and demeanor. Officers checked on her three times from about 6 a.m. until just after 7 a.m., according to a Houston-based local news site. During the third check, Bland reportedly told the male officer, "I am good." According to CNN, Bland refused a breakfast tray at around 6:30 a.m.
Just before 9 a.m., a female officer allegedly found Bland hanging from her cell with a trash bag around her neck. According to authorities, security camera footage from the hallway outside of Bland's cell shows no one entering or exiting the cell around the time she is thought to have killed herself.
Despite the release of new details Wednesday, Bland's cause of death remains hazy. For now, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis has opened a murder investigation into Bland's death as well as one into the arresting officer's behavior.