A Texas police officer, who was present during a portion of Sandra Bland's ill-fated traffic stop last summer, has accused local prosecutors and law enforcement officials of covering up what he saw during the controversial arrest.
Prairie View police officer Michael Kelley claims he knew more than he was allowed to say, and blames the district attorney’s officer for keeping him silent. He said he wanted to testify in front of the jury, but some officials threatened him with retaliation, forcing him to stay quiet.
The officer made these accusations in March to local activist Dwayne Charleston, who only made public the recorded conversation between him Kelley on Tuesday. The recording not only raises new questions about the arrest that led to a 28-year-old woman committing suicide in her jail cell, it also provides a rare glimpse into how the “blue wall of silence” actually works.
Kelley said by the time he arrived on the scene of Bland’s traffic stop that fateful day, she was already handcuffed in the back of a squad car. Brian Encinia, the former Texas trooper who stopped and arrested Bland, admitted that he was going to come up with a charge to lodge against Bland.
Encinia had also turned off his own body camera.
“My opinion is that he messed up. He did not have probable cause to detain her after he pulled her out of the car,” the 33-year-old told The Huffington Post, noting how these crucial parts were removed from his official report. “She had a large mark on her head. Maybe she fell when she was in handcuffs. Maybe she got kicked.”
Bland apparently complained about headache but refused to cooperate with the emergency medical workers.
Encinia pulled Bland over for failing to signal a lane change and then arrested her for allegedly attacking him on July 10, 2015. He was charged with perjury and fired.
Kelley said he wrote a two-page rough draft detailing the incident, but the officials whittled it down to less than a page and then entered it into the official report without his approval. He also named Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam as the one who threatened him.
“He told me it wouldn’t be good for my career,” Kelley said. “Then I told him I was going to talk to Sandra Bland’s mother’s attorney, and he told me I was going to be beneath the jail.”
While Encinia’s lawyer has questioned why the cop is only now coming forward with the claims, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis has labeled his charges against his office as “fictional accounts.”
Kelley, who was indicted last year for misusing a Taser on African-American Prairie View city council member Jonathan Miller, believes his indictment was the payback for speaking out about Bland.
“This is what happens when you try to cross the thin blue line,” said Charleston, a former justice of the peace in Waller County and local activist.
Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, has forcefully challenged the narrative provided by Waller County authorities about her daughter's death. She was also one of the mothers featured in the Democratic National Convention’s "Mothers of the Movement" segment.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Shannon Stapleton