The death of a woman, who was found hanged in a Texas jail, will be investigated as a murder, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said during a press conference on Monday.
As NPR’s Martin Kaste reported, this all started when an officer stopped Sandra Bland for allegedly failing to signal a lane change. The traffic stop escalated and after a struggle, which was filmed, Bland was arrested and charged with assaulting a public servant.
That happened on a Friday. Bland spent a weekend in jail, and on Monday she was found hanged in her jail cell.
According to police, an ambulance was called to the scene on Friday, but Bland refused medical attention. On that Monday, a jailer checked on her shortly after 7 a.m. According to The New York Times, Bland allegedly told the jailer that she was “fine.” But when a second jailer checked on her at 9 a.m., she saw Bland hanging in her cell.
The Harris County medical examiner ruled Bland’s death a suicide, but her family has been disputing that finding from the beginning.
Reuters reports that Mathis said there were “too many questions that need to be resolved.” The wire service adds:
” ‘This is being treated like a murder investigation,’ Mathis said. He added that officials would examine fingerprints and run DNA tests on the plastic trash bag used in her hanging.
“Bland’s family has called for an independent autopsy and for the U.S. Justice Department to open an investigation, saying the young woman had moved to Texas from Chicago to start a new job and would not have taken her own life.
“They also told Chicago local media that Bland, a black woman, was outspoken about allegations of bias and excessive force by U.S. law enforcement in a year that saw protests across the country following the killings of unarmed black men by white officers in New York, Missouri and South Carolina.”
ABC News reports that the case is being investigated by the Texas Rangers, but is being supervised by the FBI.