Thank you to Gracie for suggesting this topic.
Sandra Bland was born February 7, 1987 in Naperville, Illinois. She was a graduate of Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. She earned a degree in Animal Science in 2009. While at Prairie View A&M, Sandra was a student counselor and a member of the marching band. In fact, she was admitted to the university on a music scholarship. She played the trombone.
In 2009, the United States was in a recession and Sandra found it difficult to find a job using her degree. She worked as a secretary at the university for a little while after graduating, but struggled to make ends meet so she moved back to Illinois. There she worked at a factory that made food service equipment, particularly for prisons. She was even featured in a commercial for the company.
2014 was a hard year for Sandra. She suffered an ectopic pregnancy. She was depressed afterward and attempted to overdose on pills. Sandra’s godmother also died that year. The two were very close and the loss weighed heavy on Sandra.
In January of 2015, Sandra began posting a series of videos on her Facebook that she called Sandy Speaks. She spoke out about the mistreatment of African Americans, particularly by the police.
On July 10, 28 year old Sandra was back in Prairie View. She had accepted a temporary position at Prairie View A&M. While driving her car, a police vehicle sped up behind her. Sandra thought that the officer needed to pass her, so she changed lanes to get out of the way.
The officer pulled her over and told Sandra that he had stopped her because she hadn’t used her turn signal to change lanes. The officer was 30 year old State Trooper Brian Encinia. The interaction was filmed on Brian’s dashcam, by a bystander and by Sandra herself, but the video from Sandra’s cell phone wouldn’t be made public for almost 4 years.
3 days after her arrest, Sandra was found hanging in her jail cell. A trash bag was around her neck and she was suspended by a hook in the ceiling. She was in the standing position with her feet on the ground.
That morning, Sandra didn’t accept breakfast. She told the officer that checked on her at 7am that she was fine. At approximately 8am, Sandra used the intercom in her cell to ask to make a phone call. There was a phone in her cell, but it made collect calls only. These calls were $15. Sandra had been allowed to use the phone at the officer’s desk during her stay and was asking to use that phone. The officer told her that she would have to use the phone in her cell if she wanted to make a call. Records indicated that she did not make a call at that time.
By 9am, Sandra was dead. Video camera footage from outside her cell showed that no one entered or exited her cell from 7:30-9am. The officer who found Sandra’s body can be seen on this footage. An autopsy found that Sandra died from asphyxiation and her death was ruled a suicide. Some minor cuts to her back and wrists were noted on the autopsy, but were attributed to a struggle with Brian during her arrest. It also recorded evidence of healed scars on her forearm from self harm.
Sandra had confided in her Sandy Speaks videos that she suffered from PTSD, but her family and friends did not believe that she was suicidal.
From the beginning, there was a heated debate as to whether or not Sandra’s death was a suicide. Video footage from the dash cam and jail were released almost immediately. Brian can be heard asking Sandra if she is irritated. He didn’t seem to like her answer of yes. He then told her to put her cigarette out. She asked him why when she was in her own vehicle. Brian then told Sandra to get off the phone and get out of the car. When she refused and continued to record the interaction, Brian attempted to pull her out of her vehicle and threatened her with a taser saying, “I’m going to light you up!”
Bystander video showed Sandra on the ground. She can be heard telling Brian that she can’t hear because he slammed her head on the ground and that her arm hurts. She said it might be broken. Sandra also informed Brian that she has epilepsy. To this information, he responded, “Good.” He then told the person filming to leave.
Sandra was charged with assaulting a public servant because Brian claimed she kicked him during their altercation. Her bail was set at $5000. Sandra contacted friends and family. None of them had the $500 needed for her bail, but they attempted to raise the money.
An inmate in the next cell later reported that she could hear Sandra crying in her cell. The women spoke some. Sandra told the inmate that she was upset that no one had come to bail her out. Sandra was in her cell alone. The inmate claimed that she didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary at the time of Sandra’s death.
Sandra’s death inspired the hashtags #SandraBland and #Sayhername on Twitter. An online petition was started to demand further investigation into her death. Protests and vigils were held across the United States.
Brian was fired by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
It was discovered that Sandra had divulged on her intake form that she was depressed and had suffered from suicidal thoughts and actions in the past. This should have been enough for jail officials to place her on suicide watch. Protocol would have required that she be checked on every 15 minutes.
In 2016, evidence surfaced that Sandra’s time of death may have been earlier than what was originally reported. An investigation showed that reports made by guards stating the times they checked on Sandra were contradictory to camera footage at the jail by as much as an hour.
That same year, Brian was indicted for perjury. He testified to the grand jury during her wrongful death case that he told Sandra to exit her vehicle because he felt threatened by her. It was clear from the dash cam and bystander video that this was a lie. The perjury charges were dropped in 2017 when Brian agreed to leave law enforcement and never seek a job in that sector again. The grand jury chose not to proceed against the jail for wrongful death.
Sandra’s family settled out of court with the Texas Department of Public Safety for $1.9 million.
Sandra’s body was returned to Illinois for her funeral.
A street in Prairie View was renamed Sandra Bland Parkway.
The Sandra Bland Act was enacted in Texas in 2017. This act mandated de-escalation training and required recommendations for treatment for inmates with mental health issues.
The video shot by Sandra from inside her vehicle during the altercation with Brian can be seen here
Sandy Speaks videos can be seen here
If you want more information on Black Lives Matter, please visit https://blacklivesmatter.com.
A video summary of this week’s post can be found at