The story of Sandra Bland continues to unfold, bringing more questions than answers.
The African-American woman from Naperville was pulled over on July 10 by Texas State Trooper Brian T. Encinia for a minor traffic violation in a small Texas town and was arrested for assault.
Three days later she was found dead in her jail cell.
The initial finding was that she hung herself, but the investigation has widened and it’s now being treated as a murder case, according to the District Attorney in Waller County.
“It’s still unknown whether Ms. Bland was murdered by Waller County law enforcement officials, which is really what most people believe, or whether she committed suicide. But whatever the cause of death, there’s one thing for certain, it was a wrongful death,” Jeffrey L. Boney, associate editor for the Houston Forward Times and talk show host for 1230 AM KCOH in Houston, told Morning Shift.
There are currently no official wrongful death charges against Waller County Police. Bland’s family has hired an independent medical examiner to investigate her death.
The latest controversy surrounds the newly released police dash-cam video of the traffic stop and arrest by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Bland’s family claims the more than 52-minute video shows signs of editing about midway through, raising more questions.
The department says the video hasn’t been edited, but says there were technical glitches as a result of uploading the video. A new, glitch-free, 49-minute video has been released.
The 28-year-old civil rights advocate’s death is the latest in a string of African-American deaths either in police custody or in confrontation with law enforcement.
Almost immediately after news of Bland’s death broke, the hashtag #IfIDieinPoliceCustody took off on social media. The hashtag exposes the truth and fear that many feel surrounding the relationship between the police and African Americans.
Boney of Houston Forward Times said the reason behind the hashtag is simple.
“You have a group of individuals that are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said.
Jamilah Lemieux, senior editor for Ebony.com, participated in #IfIDieinPoliceCustody.
#IfIDieInPoliceCustody don't trust any report of me being aggressive, I put my humanity aside in interactions w/ cops to come home to my kid— jamilah (@JamilahLemieux) July 17, 2015
She explained her tweet on Morning Shift.
“That means the right that I have to challenge someone who is violating my legal rights is something I’ve put aside in hopes, in hopes, that I won’t be killed by a police officer,” Lemieux said.
Along with the hashtag, the Black Lives Matter movement and the black press have closely followed the story, some argue more than the mainstream media.
“Social media networks, particularly Twitter, [has] become another arm of the black press. People who are not traditional journalists, and reporters and writers, have a voice and have the ability to make stories like this relevant to larger audiences. Other outlets, the TV news, they were forced to pay attention to this story because of social media and because of quote, unquote, black Twitter,” she said.
10 Compelling #IfIDieinPoliceCustody tweets
#ifidieinpolicecustody look under my fingernails. The skin of the person who killed me will be there...— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) July 18, 2015
#IfIDieInPoliceCustody ask every question, and know that I did not end my own life. And protest in the spirit of the founding fathers.— deray mckesson (@deray) July 17, 2015
#Ifidieinpolicecustody Do not make calls for peace or forgiveness. Do not speculate about my mental state. I'm Black and constantly enraged.— Charlene Carruthers (@CharleneCac) July 17, 2015
I actually can't take the realness of #IfIDieInPoliceCustody right now so many young Blk people prepping for that possibility is so painful— MichaelaAngela Davis (@MichaelaAngelaD) July 17, 2015
#IfIDieInPoliceCustody know that I didn't reach for the officer's gun.— Juan M. Thompson (@JuanMThompson) July 17, 2015
#IfIDieInPoliceCustody Don't call for peace. Call for action. Peace will not get me justice. Peace will not bring my family justice.— Pocahontas༄༅ (@MalePocahontas) July 17, 2015
#IfIDieInPoliceCustody hire an outside investigator immediately.— JadeBrieanne, Author (@BlackNerdJade) July 16, 2015
It's sad that we need advance directives in the case of our lives being taken at the hands of law enforcement. #IfIDieInPoliceCustody— Afro-Circus (@ImJustCeej) July 16, 2015