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[UPDATED] New Video Of Sandra Bland Arrest Was Not Edited, Authorities Say

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 22, 2015 1:45PM

Updated below.

New details have emerged in the hanging death of an Illinois civil rights activist in a Texas jailhouse, including a disturbing dashcam video of the traffic stop that led to the woman's arrest.

Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American woman from Naperville, was driving through Texas on her way to a job interview last week when she was pulled over by state police. Police say that during the encounter, Bland was “argumentative and uncooperative,” and physically assaulted the state trooper. Bland was held in Waller County jail for three days and was found dead by hanging on July 13, Time reports. Some officials believe both the Waller County state trooper who stopped Bland and staffers at the jail violated several regulations, according to Slate.

Updated July 22, 8:30 a.m. Texas Department of Public Safety authorities told reporters late Tuesday evening that they were investigating whether the 52-minute dashcam video of Bland's arrest had been edited. The video appears to have been edited, some viewers have noted, because the video repeats itself at several points and appears to cut in and out even as the audio remains contiguous. These issues with the video were first reported by documentarian and writer Ben Norton, according to NBC. A Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman told reporters Wednesday morning that the video had not been edited, but appeared to be because it experienced "a technical issue" while it was being uploaded, and the department is now "working to correct" it.

In the 52-minute video recorded on the state trooper's dashcam and released Tuesday evening, a heated exchange begins after the officer first tells Bland that she "seems irritated." The officer then tells her to put out her cigarette and when Bland refuses, he tells her he will remove her from the car, then opens her door and attempts to remove her (around the 10 minute mark).

When Bland asks her why she's being apprehended the officer says that he was giving her a "lawful order," and then says, "I am going to drag you out of here...I will light you up." Bland then exits the vehicle and the trooper leads her out of the view of the camera while pointing a taser.

The exchange continues off camera and Bland can be heard saying, "You're about to break my wrist."

Mother Jones reports that in a press conference late Tuesday, after the full dashcam video was released, the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said that Texas state trooper Brian Encinia failed to "maintain professionalism" and that he had been placed on administrative duty during the investigation into Bland's death. Similarly, on Friday, officials said:

"In the preliminary review of the traffic stop that occurred in Prairie View on July 10, 2015, involving Sandra Bland, we have identified violations of the department's procedures regarding traffic stops and the department's courtesy policy.”

Encinia did not mention the confrontation over the cigarette or the taser in his arrest report, according to the New York Times.

State legislators condemned Encinia's behavior. "This young woman should be alive today,” said Texas State Representative Helen Giddings.

"Once you see what occurred, you will probably agree with me that she shouldn't have been taken into custody," said Texas State Senator Royce West.

Harris County medical examiners quickly called her death a suicide, a determination disputed by Bland’s family and friends. “The family of Sandra Bland is confident that she was killed and did not commit suicide,” lawyers for the family said in a statement last week.

Video released from the jail Monday shows staff discovering Bland slumped over the cell’s toilet with a trash bag over her head in a “semi-standing position,” according to the New York Daily News. Speaking at a Monday press conference, District Attorney Elton Mathis said:

“It is very much too early to make any kind of determination that this was a suicide or a murder because the investigations are not complete. This investigation is still being treated just as it would be in a murder investigation. There are many questions being raised in Waller County, across the country and the world about this case. It needs a thorough review.”

Though Mathis said the investigation was being treated like a murder, he told Bland’s sister, Sharon Cooper and her mother, Geneva Reed, that evidence at this time indicates Bland committed suicide in the jail. In a press release after the private impromptu meeting, which came at the request of their attorney, Cannon D. Lambert, Sr., Waller County Judge Trey Duhon said that the meeting was “positive,” and that officials in Waller County are “completely committed to an open and transparent investigative process.”

Family members and activists have asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice to assist in the investigation.