Lawyers representing the family of Sandra Bland — a black woman who died in police custody last month after a seemingly routine traffic stop — filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the arresting officer and others connected to the case, according to local news reports.
The targets of the suit include state trooper Brian Encina, the Texas Department of Public Safety, screening officers at the Waller County jail, and Waller County itself.
Encinia pulled over Bland for a minor traffic infraction on July 10. Video footage of the incident shows a confrontation between the pair, during which the state trooper apparently threatens to use a stun gun on Bland before taking her into custody. In the lawsuit, Bland's family accuses Waller of violating Bland's constitutional rights, committing assault, and ultimately causing her death.
Bland, a 28-year-old Illinois native and Black Lives Matter activist, was found dead in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell three days later in what local officials are describing as a suicide by hanging.
Some of those close to Bland, as well as many of their supporters, have questioned the official explanation for Bland’s death. But an official autopsy of Bland has indicated the cause of death was a suicide.
Cannon Lambert, the attorney representing Bland's family, said at a Tuesday press conference that the lawsuit comes after weeks of stonewalling from the authorities.
“Candidly, we were unable to get many of the answers we have been asking for for weeks,” Lambert said. “We are looking for Waller County and the individuals involved in this situation to take accountability.”
Bland’s death — the latest in a series of incidents over the past year in which unarmed black people have died either in police custody or at the hands of the police — has galvanized protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter and similar groups around the country.
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Bland’s death, for which he has empaneled a committee of outside attorneys.
The FBI and the Texas Rangers have also said they are also looking into the Bland case.