Calls for Sandra Bland case to be reopened

Cell phone video captured by Sandra Bland of her controversial traffic stop in 2015 was released on Monday. The video has since sparked calls from people across the country, urging investigators to reopen the case.

Speaking on behalf of Sandra Bland's family, activitist DeWayne Charleston made a plea during Waller County Commissioners court Wednesday

“I spoke with the family yesterday, and her sister wanted me to share with you her frustration and disgust,” Charleston said.  

Charleston asked commissioners and County Judge Carbett J. Duhon for their pledge to make legislative changes to the Sandra Bland Act— a law signed by Governor Greg Abbott in 2017 to increase public safety.

“Sandra Bland's family wanted to implore you guys to get involved with the legislation. Put some more teeth in the Sandra Bland Act so that police officers will get much better training, sensitivity training. They will know how to deescalate,” Charleston said.

In July of 2015, Bland was seen in dash cam video being pulled over in a routine traffic stop by former DPS trooper Brian Encinia in Prairie View.

Encinia is heard asking Bland to put out her cigarette. She refused and things escalated.

But on Monday, never-before-seen cell phone video captured by Bland was released.

The video shows trooper Brian Encinia opening Bland's car door and drawing his stun gun as she tries to steady her phone's camera. The flashlights on the stun gun flick on and Encinia yells, "Get out of the car! I will light you up. Get out!"

Bland exits the car and continues to record Encinia as he orders her onto the sidewalk. The stun gun is still pointed at her and the flashlights remain on. He instructs her to get off the phone, to which Bland replies, "I'm not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property."

The 28-year-old was thrown in jail and reportedly committed suicide 3 days later. Her family was reportedly unable to post the $5,000 bond.

“He was never upset about a cigarette. This man was never fearing for his personal safety. It wasn't the cigarette, it was the phone that agitated him!” Charleston said.

Charleston’s outcry for help joins a number of people across the country including Democratic presidential hopefuls Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris, who are calling for accountability by reopening the case.

In a statement, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis responded:

“There is no “new evidence” that would justify reopening the Sandra Bland case. The video making the rounds of social media and the news has been part of the investigation back to 2015. I have no reason to doubt that the original five outside special prosecutors or the grand jury that considered the facts and circumstances surrounding Ms. Bland’s arrest, subsequent incarceration and untimely death should be second guessed. My condolences are with her family still, and I commend them for trying to effect change in the criminal justice system in Texas and also around the country.”

Texas DPS also responded with a statement.

“The cellphone video that is the subject of a recent news story is not newly discovered evidence.

The cellphone recording is referenced by Ms. Bland in the dash cam video that was posted on the department’s YouTube channel on July 22, 2015. The video recording from Ms. Bland’s cellphone was specifically identified multiple times in the Ranger Report of investigation. The Ranger Report was made available to all the litigants during the civil litigation filed by her family. At all times, the department complied with its discovery obligations in the civil litigation.

Additionally, the video from Ms. Bland’s cellphone has been treated as public information and made available upon request. Brian Collister, the reporter who describes the video as “newly discovered,” filed a public information request back in august 2017. Mr. Collister specifically requested the video from Ms. Bland’s cellphone, and the department provided the video to Mr. Collister at that time. Again, we reiterate that the video is not newly discovered and has in no way been concealed by the department.”