The probe into the jail cell death of Sandra Bland will be treated as a murder investigation, a Texas district attorney said Monday.
“There are many questions being raised about this case. It needs a thorough and exhaustive review,” said Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis during an evening news conference.
Yet, Waller County Sheriff’s Office Captain of Patrol Brian Cantrell said at the same press conference that Bland’s July 12 death inside a Waller County Jail was already ruled a suicide.
“I want to make clear that the death of Ms. Bland was a tragic incident — not one of criminal intent or a criminal act,” he said.
Cantrell claimed Bland, 28, strangled herself with a jail cell trash bag, but her family has disputed the very notion that she would kill herself. They have asked for an independent autopsy.
“Ms. Bland’s family did make valid points that she did have a lot of things going on in her life that were good,” Mathis said.
He said it was “too early to make any kind of determination that this is a suicide or a murder,” and once all the evidence is turned over to his office, it will be presented before a grand jury.
Mathis said one of the things he will consider closely is if there was any DNA or fingerprints other than Bland’s on the trash bag that was found around her neck.
Video from the Waller County Jail was released Monday night, and dashboard camera footage from the traffic stop that led to Bland’s arrest will be released Tuesday, officials said.
The lawyer representing Bland’s family said the stop for a routine traffic violation became confrontational when Bland was asked to put out her cigarette. The lawyer, Cannon Lambert, told NBC News that the state trooper “looked to force her to get out of the car by way of opening the door and started demanding that she do.”
Mathis said video of the stop shows Bland became “combative.” She was charged with assaulting a public servant, which landed her in a “high risk” section of the jail “for the safety of other inmates,” Cantell said.
Bland’s family remains flummoxed about why she was even ordered out of her car and how a simple traffic stop led to her death three days later.
“We want to understand what happened, we want to know what happened and we want to know why,” Lambert said.