Sandra Bland’s own video of 2015 Texas traffic stop surfaces

Bland, a black woman, was found hanging in her jail cell three days after her 2015 arrest for a minor traffic violation.

A demonstrator holds a Sandra Bland sign during a vigil on July 28, 2015 [File: Christian K Lee/AP Photo]
A demonstrator holds a Sandra Bland sign during a vigil on July 28, 2015 [File: Christian K Lee/AP Photo]

Mobile phone video recorded by Sandra Bland, a black woman found dead in a Texas jail following a confrontational 2015 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 her car.

The 39-second clip revealed by the Investigative Network, a nonprofit news organization in Texas, aired Monday night on Dallas television station WFAA.

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 pavement. 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.

‘Troubling piece of crucial evidence’

The emergence of the mobile phone video raised questions about who had seen it until now. Cannon Lambert, a lawyer for the Bland family who settled lawsuits against the state of Texas and the Waller County Jail that totalled nearly two million dollars combined, said he never saw the clip until it was recently shared by a news reporter.

Lambert said he did not see the video in evidence turned over by investigators, which he said he wanted to believe was just human error. Democratic state Representative Garnet Coleman, who in 2017 sponsored the “Sandra Bland Act” that Bland’s family criticised for being weakened before it was signed into law, said Monday night he would look into why the 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.

The Texas Department of Public Safety disputed the premise that the video was not provided, saying it was included as part of a large hard drive of evidence from the investigation. It also said Bland’s mobile phone video had previously been publicly released in 2017, when it was given to an Austin television station under open records law.

Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, said “the existence of the cellphone video was known to all parties” at the time and that two years after the family’s lawsuits it is “unclear what arrangements, if any, were made by the plaintiffs to view the video.”

Encinia, who was fired after being indicted for perjury over the traffic stop, said he came to fear for his safety after stopping Bland for failing to signal a lane change.

“The video makes it abundantly clear there was nothing she was doing in that car that put him at risk at all,” Lambert said.

The perjury charge was later dropped in exchange for Encinia agreeing to never work in law enforcement again.

That Bland was holding up a mobile phone is clear in the original dashcam footage. Chip Lewis, Encinia’s lawyer, said the mobile phone footage doesn’t illuminate anything beyond what the dashcam video already showed.

He said “furtive gestures” made by Bland from inside her car presented a risk and was the impetus for Encinia trying to remove her.

“From a law enforcement standpoint, it had nothing to do with her being agitated as you may have seen on her recording,” Lewis said.

SOURCE: AP news agency