DA: It's Too Early to Know How Woman Died in Texas Jail Cell

DA: It's Too Early to Know How Woman Died in Texas Jail Cell

Sandra Bland's death is being treated as thoroughly as a murder investigation.

Published July 21, 2015

HEMPSTEAD, Texas (AP) — Dashcam video showing a state trooper's arrest of a woman who was later found dead in her Texas jail cell is consistent with information the officer has provided about the traffic stop, the Waller County district attorney said Monday.

But Elton Mathis cautioned that the video, which he expected to be released Tuesday, shows only restricted views of the July 10 stop of Sandra Bland in Prairie View, Texas. Mathis' statements came after sheriff's authorities Monday released a three-hour video showing the hallway outside the jail cell where authorities say Bland was found hanged on July 13.

Bland's death has been ruled a suicide by the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office, a finding that supporters and relatives of the Chicago-area woman dispute. The 28-year-old black woman's death at the Waller County jail, about 60 miles northwest of Houston, comes amid increased national scrutiny of police after a series of high-profile cases in which blacks have been killed by officers.

"This investigation is still being treated just as it would be a murder investigation," Mathis said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has said the state trooper who pulled Bland over planned to give her a written warning but she became uncooperative and argumentative. She was arrested after she allegedly kicked an officer and then was taken to the county jail in Hempstead.

DPS has also said the trooper who stopped Bland violated traffic stop procedures and the department's courtesy policy, but they haven't elaborated further.

The trooper is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

Authorities believe Bland also may have been trying to record the stop on her cellphone, Mathis said Monday. The FBI, which is heading the investigation of her death, was examining her phone to try to match the video to the dashcam video, he said.

Authorities have previously said no one entered or left Bland's cell between the time she last spoke with deputies through an intercom system and when her body was discovered.

Video from the jail released Monday, according to sheriff's department officials, shows no activity in the hallway leading to Bland's cell for about 90 minutes until an officer goes to check on her, looks through a window, makes a "frantic call to the (jail) controller," and runs back to the jail main area to summon help, Capt. Brian Cantrell, head of the sheriff's department criminal investigation division, said.

He said officers tried CPR, called emergency medical personnel who continued CPR, then determined she was dead.

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(Photo: Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Written by Michael Graczyk, Associated Press

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