It turns out Sandra Bland recorded her own arrest. New cellphone footage taken by Bland during her July 2015 traffic stop in Waller County, Texas, was obtained and aired Monday night (May 6) on Dallas news station WFAA.
In the cellphone clip, you can hear Texas state trooper Brian Encinia yell at Bland, 28. “Get out of the car! Now!” he shouts. The young woman, who died three days later in a Waller County jail cell, questions why the trooper would “threaten to drag me out of my own car.” That’s when Encinia pulls out his taser and threatens her with, “I will light you up!”
Bland’s death was officially ruled a suicide, but her family is now demanding that the case be reopened, The Washington Post reports. Initially, Encinia’s dash cam footage was believed to be the only recording of the traffic stop. The trooper said he pulled over Bland’s car because she failed to signal a lane change. He then violently pulled Bland from her car and slammed her to the ground, later claiming that his actions were warranted because he feared for his safety. Encinia was charged with perjury in January 2016, but the charges were eventually dropped.
Bland’s family and its attorney, Cannon Lambert, said they never saw Bland’s personal recording of her arrest until it aired on TV, according to The Post. Now, they allege that the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) intentionally withheld the footage and say the clip raises new questions about the case. Bland’s sister Shante Needham spoke to WFAA about the video, which was uncovered in partnership with the Investigative Network. “Open up the case, period,” she said. Attorney Lambert told the local news outlet that he never saw the footage, which leads him to believe it intentionally wasn’t turned over during the evidence discovery period. “If they had turned it over, I would have seen it,” Lambert said.
The Post reports officials at TDPS deny any wrongdoing. “The premise that the video was not produced as a part of the discovery process is wrong,” the department told WFAA in a statement. “A hard drive containing copies of 820 gigabytes of data compiled by DPS from its investigation, including the dash cam videos, jail video footage and data from Sandra Bland’s cellphone, was part of discovery.”
Bland’s family sued TDPS and Waller County following her death, reaching a $1.9 million settlement. Lambert told reporters on Monday that Bland’s video shows she didn’t pose a threat to the trooper. “The video makes it abundantly clear there was nothing she was doing in that car that put him at risk at all,” he said. Needham insists the new footage shows Encinia deserves to face criminal charges. She told WFAA, “[The clip shows] he really had no business even stopping her, period. And at the end of the day, he needs to go to jail,” she said.