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'What Happened To Sandra Bland?' Asks Lawsuit Filed By Family

By Selena Fragassi in News on Aug 4, 2015 4:00PM

The family of Sandra Bland officially filed a 46-page lawsuit on Tuesday morning against a Texas state trooper and the Waller County Sheriff’s Office, which they hold responsible for her untimely death several weeks ago.

Bland, originally from Naperville, was en route to a new job in Texas when she was pulled over by Officer Brian Encinia on July 10 for failure to signal when changing lanes. A confrontation ensued as Encinia ordered Bland to put out her cigarette, and widely viewed dashboard footage shows Encinia forcefully removing the woman from her car while moments later, off-screen, Bland can be heard condemning the cop for slamming her to the ground and hitting her head, saying she suffers from seizures.

Whether that incident contributed to her death is still unknown as a number of questions remain surrounding her passing. Bland was booked for battery and while awaiting bail was found allegedly hung by a garbage bag in her jail cell three days later, though her family disputes that the woman was suicidal and questions whether foul play by the department was a factor in her demise.

To counter that theory Waller County officials released new video last week showing Bland inside the jail without issue.

The case has reignited discussions of racial tension and unnecessary brutality between black offenders and white police officers. Bland’s is the latest in several high-profile cases that have caught national attention, sparking widespread demonstrations and calls for justice.

Today Bland’s family took that call by filing their lawsuit in Houston, asking for the U.S. Department of Justice to provide “a new set of eyes” on the case. Specifically the suit names Encinia, the Waller County sheriff's office and two jail guards—Elsa Magnus and Oscar Prudente. According to the full document obtained by the Tribune, the lawsuit accuses Encinia of assault and battery. His "wanton conduct," it says, violated Bland's constitutional rights and was among the events that led to her death. It also argues that the sheriff's office and guards are also liable for her death.

You can read the full transcript here.

"This family needs an answer to the principle question of what happened to Sandra Bland. It's why we filed suit," Cannon Lambert, Sr., a representative for the family, told USA Today. "We are looking for Waller County and the individuals involved to take accountability … Mr. Encinia is still employed and it doesn't make sense that the taxpayers are paying for the type of service that he employed on July 10.”