After death threats, officials release video of Sandra Bland’s booking

Jail employees never ‘mishandled or mistreated’ Bland, says a Waller County judge

Texas authorities on Tuesday released several hours of video footage depicting Sandra Bland arrival and three-day stint in jail in an apparent bid to dispel rumors that she was dead by the time records show she was booked.

Bland’s body was found hanging in a Waller County jail days after she was arrested on July 10 having been stopped for a minor traffic offense.

The case has become the focus of national and international attention, with activists saying the incident — during which the arresting officer was caught on dash cam footage threatening to use a stun gun on her — is yet another example of police brutality directed toward black Americans.

It also sparked online rumors that Bland had died prior to being booked.

On Tuesday, Waller County Judge Trey Duhon said such conspiracy theories had prompted death threats against county officials.

"Because of some of the things that's gone out on social media, this county has been literally attacked," he said at a news conference, adding that the FBI is investigating the most serious threats.

"Sandra Bland was alive and well" until she was found hanging on July 13, Duhon added.

The first portions of footage released Tuesday show Bland being taken out of a patrol car at the jail and questioned by a jailer. She's then briefly placed in a holding cell before her mugshot is taken and she makes a phone call.

"It is important that we release this information because we have received death threats against Waller County officials and facilities," Duhon said.

He added: "You've got people putting information out there that's trying to convince people she was murdered and deceased before she came to Waller County jail." 

He said releasing the video was meant to prevent threatened cyberattacks against the county. 

"I wish it could have gone out earlier," Duhon said, citing technical difficulties in distributing the video that were only resolved Monday night.

Bland, a former Chicago-area resident, was pulled over by white Texas state trooper Brian Encinia near Prairie View, northwest of Houston, for failing to signal a lane change.

The simple traffic stop escalated into a verbal altercation after Encinia asked Bland to put out a cigarette. Bland refused, and an altercation of some kind happens off camera. Bland was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer, a felony.

She was found dead three days later and the incident was ruled a suicide. But her family rejects the notion that she would have taken her own life.

Meanwhile, the Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis has said that there remain unanswered questions in the Bland case, and a grand jury will convene next month. A panel of outside prosecutors will advise Mathis. 

The Texas Department of Public Safety has said the officer failed to follow procedure or be courteous, and that he was on administrative duty during the investigation.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Duhon said there was no indication of Bland being mistreated after being booked in to the jail. 

"There's no footage to indicate to me that Ms. Bland was treated unfairly or mishandled or mistreated in any way shape or form when she was in Waller County jail."

He added: "I can assure on Waller County's behalf that if any individual committed any criminal violation, they will be prosecuted." 

At the end of the video, Bland goes to her cell, where she was placed alone because of her alleged assault on an officer.

"I truly wish she would have bonded out," Duhon said.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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