Rich Hein / Chicago Sun-Times / AP Photo

Prosecutor: No indictment in Sandra Bland's jail death

Bland's family has said they do not believe her case is being thoroughly investigated by the Texas Rangers

A grand jury has decided no felony crime was committed by the sheriff's office or jailers in the treatment of a black woman who died in a Southeast Texas county jail last summer.

But prosecutor Darrell Jorden says the Waller County grand jury on Monday reached no decision on whether the trooper that arrested 28-year-old Sandra Bland should face charges. The grand jury will return in January to consider that.

The Chicago-area woman was pulled over July 10 by a Texas state trooper for making an improper lane change. Authorities contend the stop became confrontational and a video of her arrest shows a state trooper kneeling on top of her as she is facedown on the ground. She can be heard saying that the trooper slammed her head to the ground and that she could not hear. She was arrested for assault.

Bland was taken in handcuffs to the county jail in nearby Hempstead, about 50 miles northwest of Houston, and remained there when she couldn't raise about $500 for bail. She was discovered dead in her jail cell three days later, hanging from a cell partition with a plastic garbage bag used as a ligature around her neck.

Bland's relatives, along with supporters fueled by social media postings, questioned an official autopsy finding that Bland killed herself.

In the days after her death, county authorities released video from the jail to dispel rumors and conspiracy theories that Bland was dead before she arrived at the jail or was killed while in custody. County officials said they themselves received death threats.

“After presenting all the evidence as it relates to the death of Sandra Bland, the grand jury did not return an indictment,” Jordan, one of the five special prosecutors, said after the grand jury met Monday for about 11 hours. “The grand jury also considered things that occurred at the jail and did not return an indictment.”

Grand jurors considered evidence collected by a team of five special prosecutors named by the county's district attorney, Elton Mathis.

“Having an independent committee to evaluate the case, that can be a positive thing in a situation like this,” Brian Serr, a law professor at Baylor University said.

Among evidence presented in the secret grand jury proceedings were the findings of a Texas Rangers' investigation.

“There's nothing in there that shows anything happened but she killed herself,” Mathis had said.

Royce West, a Dallas Democrat who has been a vocal leader in the case, and one of two black Texas state senators, also had said he was “comfortable” with the medical examiner's determination

Bland, 28, of Naperville, Illinois, had become an online supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement before she was arrested, according to the Chicago Tribune.

At a news conference earlier Monday, the family of Bland said they do not believe her case is being thoroughly investigated by the Texas Rangers or properly presented to a grand jury by special prosecutors, the Tribune reported.

Her death came amid increasing scrutiny across the nation over police treatment of minorities after the deaths of unarmed African-Americans by police, including Michael BrownTamir Rice and Eric Garner. None of the officers involved in those cases have been charged.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement on Tuesday that his thoughts were with Bland's "family and her loved ones tonight."

"There's no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman," said Sanders.

Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal filed a federal lawsuit against the arresting officer and others connected to the case, according to local news reports.

The targets of the suit include the state trooper Brian Encinia who pulled over Bland, the Texas Department of Public Safety, screening officers at the Waller County jail, and Waller County itself.

The Bland family attorneys contend Waller County jailers should have checked on her more frequently and that the county should have performed mental evaluations once she disclosed she had a history of attempting suicide. In her lawsuit, Reed-Veal also contends that Encinia falsified the assault allegation to take Bland into custody and that jail personnel failed to keep her daughter safe.

County officials have said Bland was treated well while locked up and produced documents that show she gave jail workers inconsistent information about whether she was suicidal.

Encinia, who in June completed a year-long probationary stint as a new trooper, has been on administrative duty since Bland's death.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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