Sandra Bland's death is being investigated as a murder case, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said in a press conference on Monday.
People are questioning the circumstances that led to the death of a woman in a Waller County, Texas, jail.
While local authorities ruled Sandra Bland killed herself, her family and friends contest that claim, saying the true cause of her death is being covered up.
The 28-year-old was taken taken into custody after allegedly assaulting a police officer during a routine traffic stop.
The video of her arrest was posted on YouTube. At one point in the video, Bland can be heard saying: "You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can't even hear!"
While Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith maintains Bland "had been combative on the side of the road," one of her friends, Malcolm Jackson, disagrees with the claim.
“After he (an officer) pulled her out of the car, forced her and tossed her to the ground, knee to the neck, and arrested her,” Jackson told ABC 7.
Bland's family attorney said that the dashcam video footage of her arrest did not show Bland striking the state trooper, but instead him trying to pull her out of her car. The Texas Department of Safety identified significant procedural violations in her arrest.
Bland was found dead in her cell three days after her arrest. She was “not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation” using an ordinary plastic bag, according to the sheriff’s office in a press release.
The female jailer who found her performed CPR, but Bland was pronounced dead.
A Texas bail bondsman, Joe Booker, is claiming that Bland had reached out to him in an attempt to post bail, which was set for $5,000.
"I talked to her when she first went to jail. I called her mother for her."
This was right before her alleged suicide. Many are asking why a woman attempting to free herself from incarceration would take her life so soon after, adding further fuel to suspicions that foul play was involved.
Newly released footage taken inside the county jail shows what happened minutes before Bland died. The footage, unfortunately does not offer a clear view of cell 95 where officials said they found Bland's body hanging on July 13.
Bland was a self-styled activist from Villa Park, Illinois, who commented on race relations in the United States in Facebook videos called “Sandy Speaks.” She was traveling from Chicago to Waller County where she was scheduled to for an interview for her “dream job” at Prairie View A&M University, Bland's alma-mater.
HAPPY FRIDAY KINGS & QUEENS #SandySpeaksPosted by Sandra Bland on Friday, April 10, 2015
While the police claim her death is a suicide, an online campaign, led by her friends and family, is questioning the official narrative.
Just spoke w/ family of #SandraBland : Not one single member of the family believes, even a tiny bit, that she hung herself in her jail cell— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) July 16, 2015
“The Waller County Jail is trying to rule her death a suicide and Sandy would not have taken her own life,” LaNitra Dean, one of her friends, told ABC 7. “Sandy was strong. Strong mentally and spiritually.”
“I do suspect foul play,” added Cheryl Nanton, another friend of Bland’s. “I believe that we are all 100 percent in belief that she did not do harm to herself.”
The Texas Rangers, Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Texas attorney general and the Waller County District Attorney’s Office are now looking into Bland’s case, according to County District Attorney Elton Mathis.
"I understand there's some disbelief among some friends and family that she would do this to herself," Mathis stated. "That's why it's very important that the Texas Rangers be allowed to conduct a thorough investigation."
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