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Questions Of Police Brutality Raised Over Illinois Woman Found Dead In Texas Jail Cell

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Jul 16, 2015 3:45PM

An Illinois woman with family in Chicago's suburbs was found dead in a Texas jail cell Monday, with authorities calling her death as suicide by hanging.

But friends and family of the woman, 28-year-old Sandra Bland, have launched a social media campaign disputing the claim that Bland, who was driving through Texas on her way to a job interview when she was pulled over by a state trooper on the road last Friday, killed herself.

Bland was accused of assaulting the state trooper who pulled her over, according to court documents, and ordered held in jail in lieu of $5,000 bond at her arraignment.

“The family of Sandra Bland is confident that she was killed and did not commit suicide. The family has retained counsel to investigate Sandy’s death,” a statement from a law firm representing Bland's family said, according to the Chicago Tribune. The family also plans to hold a news conference in the Loop at noon Thursday.

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told reporters that Texas Rangers from the state's Department of Public Safety were investigating Bland's death, as is protocol when someone dies while in custody, but he had no reason to believe Bland's death was not a suicide.

Bland was driving through the county when she was pulled over in her car at about 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon for failing to signal a lane change, Trooper Erik Burse, a spokesman for the Public Safety Department, told the Tribune. She allegedly kicked the officer before he had a chance to issue her a written warning, and was arrested at that time, Burse said.

Bland's family and friends have taken to social media to dispute these claims, joined by activists and writers who question whether Bland was actually a victim of police brutality and racial profiling. Alongside social media hashtags like #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland, Bland has been described as a passionate civil rights advocate and supporter of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the wake of police brutality cases and the high-profile deaths of several black teenagers at the hands of law enforcement officers around the country.

A video published on YouTube Wednesday claims to depict Bland's arrest. In the video, a woman being handcuffed by two state troopers while lying face down on the ground can be heard shouting, "For a traffic signal, slammed me to the ground and everything," and "thank you for recording."