Family files federal lawsuit seeking answers in arrest, death of woman, 28, in Texas county jail cell

By Jeff Truesdell
Updated August 04, 2015 06:30 PM
Theodore McKee Jr./

After filing a lawsuit against a Texas trooper, the sheriff’s office and two guards at the jail where Sandra Bland was found dead three days after a traffic stop, Bland’s mother conceded at a news conference on Tuesday that it’s “possible” her daughter had committed suicide, as a medical examiner ruled.

Bland’s family has previously challenged that conclusion, and in the federal lawsuit filed in Houston, accused Trooper Brian Encinia of “wanton conduct” and assault that violated Bland’s constitutional rights. The 46-page lawsuit further alleges the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and guards at the jail failed to adequately monitor and protect the Naperville, Illinois, woman while she was under their watch prior to her death.

But when asked at the news conference if she still believed her daughter did not kill herself, Bland’s mother Geneva Reed-Veal said: “I am still confident in the fact that she knew enough about Jesus that she would not take herself out,” reports the Chicago Tribune.

She added: “Anything is possible. I wasn’t there. But as a mother, my inner [voice] is telling me that she did not do that. Now I’m the first one to tell you, if the facts … show without a doubt that that was the case, I’ll have to be prepared to deal with that.”

“The bottom line is, she never should have been inside the jail cell. Period,” she said.

Bland, 28, was stopped July 10 in Prairie View, Texas, for failure to signal a lane change, then arrested and jailed for assault after a fast-escalating confrontation with Encinia that was captured on dash-cam video.

Three days later, while her family tried to raise the $500 bond, she was discovered dead, with the sheriff’s office and the medical examiner saying she hung herself with a plastic trash bag.

Family attorney Cannon Lambert said the lawsuit is an effort to pry loose police and autopsy reports that may shed light on what happened. Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith also has named his own independent investigator to oversee a review of the incident and jail procedures, with the FBI vowing to review any findings to determine if any federal laws were violated.

“We want a set of eyes that’s going to find what happened to Sandra Bland,” said Lambert. “It’s why we filed suit. It’s about holding these people accountable.”

Larry Simmons, an attorney for Waller County, said: “The county expresses its sympathy to Sandra Band’s family,” according to the Tribune. “We look forward to presenting all the evidence to the court, in the context of the applicable standards for civil liability, and intend to vigorously defend the case.”

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