Newly released mobile phone footage shows a police officer pulling a stun gun and threatening to ‘light up’ a woman - days before she died in custody.
Police dash cam footage released at the time of Sandra Bland’s arrest shows officer Brian Encinia forcibly removing her from her car, and he later told investigators that his safety was “in jeopardy at more than one time” during the arrest.
But the latest 39-second video obtained by Houston’s WFAA and the nonprofit news organisation the Investigative Network, shows Ms Bland’s arrest from her perspective for the first time, and it’s led to the family demanding that the case be re-opened.
In it, Mr Encinia looks directly into the phone’s camera and tells her to put the phone down as he writes her a ticket for failing to signal on the way to the grocery store. She responds by telling him she has a “right to record”, and refuses to put out her cigarette.
Cannon Lambert, Ms Bland’s family’s attorney, said: “He sees exactly what’s in her hand. How can you tell me you don’t know what’s in her hand when you’re looking right dead at it. What did she do to make him feel his safety was in jeopardy? Nothing.”
Her sister Shante Needham branded it an “extremely, extremely good cover-up”, while Mr Lambert insisted: "If they had turned it over, I would have seen it,” Mr Lambert said. “I’ve not seen that.”
Ms Bland was found hanging by a plastic bag in her Waller County jail cell three days later. Her death was ruled a suicide, a finding that has been widely disputed.
In a wrongful death suit, her family was award $1.9m in a settlement, which includes an agreement that Waller County be required to have a nurse or emergency medical technician at the county jail during all shifts.
Over a year after the incident, perjury charges were dropped in return for Mr Encinia agreeing to never work in law enforcement again.
In a statement to AP, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said the cellphone video was known to all parties at the time of litigation.
In 2017, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed the Sandra Bland Act, which requires police officers to go through de-escalation training, into law.
A provision that would have barred officers from arresting and jailing people for fine-only offences was stripped from the original legislation, which family members called a “missed opportunity.”
A new measure which would add such a provision is currently pending in Texas legislature.
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