On July 10, Sandra Bland was pulled over by a Texas state trooper in a routine traffic stop. Three days later she was found dead in a jail cell. We still can’t say with confidence how or why Bland died, but new dashcam footage sheds some light on how the tragic series of events began.
Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, had moved to the Houston area from Chicago for a new job at Prairie View A&M University. State trooper Brian Encinia stopped Bland for allegedly changing lanes without signaling, but things escalated quickly after Encinia, for reasons that are unclear, told Bland to put out a cigarette and she refused. NBC News reported:
“I don’t want to step out of my car,” Bland says, adding, “I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself.”“I am going to yank you out of here,” Encinia says, moving his body inside her open door.The situation escalates, and the trooper tells her she’s under arrest. “Get out of the car!” he commands. Bland asks why she’s being arrested, and then Encinia draws his Taser.“Get out of the car! I will light you up,” he continues, prompting her to exit the vehicle.
Why Bland was taken into custody in the first place still isn’t clear – the trooper claims he was assaulted – but she was reportedly trying to collect money from family members to get out of jail after the arrest. Soon after, Bland was found dead in her cell, and the autopsy pointed to an apparent suicide, listing her cause of death as “self-inflicted asphyxiation.”
People close to Bland, not surprisingly, are skeptical of the official version of events, and her death remains under investigation. Encinia has been placed on administrative duties after the Texas Department of Public Safety found “violations of procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy.”
But as many continue to demand answers, new questions are also arising. Among them: was the dashcam footage edited?
The release of this 52-minute video from the Texas Department of Public Safety is alarming at face value, but state officials confirmed last night that they’re “looking into alleged edits” of the footage.
That’s a good idea. Start watching, for example, around the 33:02 mark and notice the same white car come into frame, repeatedly, and occasionally disappears without explanation.
Another observer noted, “A man leaves the truck in the center of the frame at 25:05. For the next 15 seconds, he walks toward the right of the frame and leaves. At 25:19, he suddenly appears again, promptly disappears, then returns at 25:22. The same footage of him walking is subsequently repeated.”
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in video editing, because I know practically nothing about the subject. Maybe these kinds of glitches routinely appear in dashcam videos for technical reasons I’m not aware of.
But the Bland tragedy is already the subject of important questions and broad skepticism about the official version of events. The fact that the video may have been edited doesn’t help matters.