What We Know About the Controversy in Sandra Bland's Death

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 7/21/2015, 5:56 p.m.
While the jailhouse death of Sandra Bland is being handled like a murder investigation, authorities in Texas initially said the ...
Sandra Bland

By Ray Sanchez

CNN

(CNN) -- While the jailhouse death of Sandra Bland is being handled like a murder investigation, authorities in Texas initially said the 28-year-old woman appeared to have killed herself.

But why would a young woman who just landed a new job at her alma mater take her own life?

Why would someone who family and friends say had so much to look forward to hang herself with a noose fashioned from a trash bag?

Here's what we know about Bland's death in a cell at the Waller County jail in Hempstead following a routine traffic stop on July 10:

Who was Sandra Bland?

Bland was taking a new job at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, more than 1,000 miles from her home in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois.

She had graduated from the historically black college in 2009 and was returning there as a student ambassador, according to family members.

In the weeks before her death in police custody, Bland regularly used the #SandySpeaks hashtag to post videos on Facebook in which she denounced police brutality and racism.

"Being a black person in America is very, very hard," she said in a video posted in April. "At the moment black lives matter. They matter."

Why did the police stop and later arrest her?

Bland was arrested July 10 and accused of assaulting an officer after a traffic stop, police said. A trooper pulled her over for allegedly failing to signal a lane change.

During the stop, Bland became "argumentative and uncooperative," according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

An attorney for her family, Cannon Lambert, told CNN that the officer asked Bland to get out of her car after she refused to put out her cigarette. The officer opened the driver's side door and asked Bland to get out, he said.

Cell phone video purporting to show part of Bland's arrest was posted online. CNN could not verify the video was of Bland's arrest, but Lambert said there was "little reason to believe that it's not her."

The video shows an officer using his knee to hold a woman down on the ground. The woman is heard saying that she can't "feel my arm" and that the trooper "slammed my f------ head to the ground."

"Do you not even care about that?" she asked.

Sharon Cooper, one of Bland's sisters, told CNN that preliminary autopsy results showed her sibling suffered "deep tissue bruising to her back" consistent with someone pushing a knee into her back.

Waller County paramedics were called to the scene of her arrest, but Bland refused a medical evaluation before she was booked, according to the public safety department.

Asked about reports that Bland kicked the trooper before her arrest, Lambert said: "It's not characteristic that she would voluntarily and without any sort of provocation strike out at someone."

How did Bland end up dead in her cell?

Bland, 28, was found dead July 13 in a Waller County jail cell after authorities said she hanged herself with a plastic trash bag.