In the last 48 hours many have wanted to know what happened to yet another possible victim of police brutality.
This time the story focuses on Sandra Bland, a black woman who was found dead in her jail cell after being arrested and mistreated for failing to signal while she changed lanes.
Police in Waller County, Texas, where this all happened, claim Bland hanged herself. Her family and friends say there’s no way that’s true. And while an FBI investigation into the circumstances surrounding Bland’s death has yet to conclude, the information which has come to light to date seems pretty suspicious.
So what happened to Sandra Bland? Here’s what we know so far:
1. Bland was in Texas to take a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M. She was a vocal supporter of criminal justice reform who vlogged about police misconduct, as well as an active member of her church who had previously only been in trouble for traffic violations and low-level marijuana possession.
2. Bland was pulled over for failing to signal while she changed lanes. Once she was stopped, the cops say she was argumentative, so they asked her to exit her car, at which point she kicked one of them. Malcolm Jackson, an eyewitness, says otherwise: “[H]e pulled her out of the car, forced her and tossed her to the ground, knee to the neck, and arrested her.”
3. A video which bystanders captured showing part of the roadside encounter sees police handling Bland roughly as she begs them to stop:
Bland can be clearly heard saying, “I can’t even feel my arm. You just slammed my head into the ground, you do not care about that. I can’t even hear. He slammed my f–king head into the ground. All of this for a traffic signal. I swear to God, all of this for a traffic signal.”
As she is loaded into the police car, Bland speaks to the bystander recording the incident, who continued filming even after police said to stop. “Thank you for recording. Thank you,” Bland says. “For a traffic signal. Slammed me into the ground and everything.”
4. The police took Bland to jail on charges of assault of a public servant over the alleged kick. She was placed alone in a cell and attempted to post bail. She also told her sister she was in pain from the roadside assault and believed her arm might be broken. The next morning, she ate breakfast around 7 a.m., asked to make a phone call around 8, and was found dead around 9.
5. Waller County police say Bland hanged herself with a trash bag, but those who know her say there’s no way that’s true in light of her personality, her new job, and her activism opposing police misconduct cases. “The Waller County Jail is trying to rule her death a suicide and Sandy would not have taken her own life,” said her friend, LaNitra Dean. “Sandy was strong. Strong mentally and spiritually.”
6. Technically, Bland shouldn’t have been jailed at all, as jails are supposed to be used to detain suspected violent criminals and flight risks before trial. Bland, guilty at most of sloppy driving and maybe a kick, hardly fit that description.
7. Waller County has a history of racism, including unusually high numbers of lynchings of black people as late as the 1950s. The current sheriff came under allegations of racism eight years ago.
8. Following the news of Bland’s death, many black people have taken to Twitter to publicly declare that if they die in police custody, it wasn’t suicide. That they feel the need—a need I, as a white woman, frankly don’t share at all—to make this known is itself an indictment of our criminal justice system.
9. Ultimately, “[n]o one should be stopped for a simple traffic violation and end up dead,” said Waller County Presiding Judge Morris Overstreet. “As far as we know, all of this was started with a simple traffic stop. How did it escalate to this level? I want to know myself.”