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CLOSINGS

Posted: July 17, 2015

Officer in Sandra Bland traffic stop suspended after her jail death

William Mitchell, 5, of Houston, holds a sign at a rally at the Waller County Jail in Hempstead on Friday to protest the death of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in the jail.
Jay Janner
William Mitchell, 5, of Houston, holds a sign at a rally at the Waller County Jail in Hempstead on Friday to protest the death of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in the jail.

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            Officer in Sandra Bland traffic stop suspended after her jail death
Anthony Collier of Houston marches with others from the Waller County Jail to the Waller County Courthouse in Hempstead on Friday to protest the death Sandra Bland, who was found dead in the jail.

            Officer in Sandra Bland traffic stop suspended after her jail death
Anthony Collier of Houston marches with others from the Waller County Jail to the Waller County Courthouse in Hempstead on Friday to protest the death Sandra Bland, who was found dead in the jail.

By Tim Eaton

American-Statesman Staff

HEMPSTEAD —

Additional material from the Associated Press

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A state trooper involved in the traffic stop of Sandra Bland, whose death in the Waller County jail this week has drawn national media attention, violated Texas Department of Public Safety procedures and the agency’s “courtesy policy,” the department said Friday.

>> Read the department's statemen regarding the suspension.

A DPS spokesman wouldn’t say what the trooper, identified as Brian Encinia, 30, did wrong. He has been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of a Texas Ranger and FBI investigation into the incident.

Waller County authorities said Friday a video of the stop would be released soon, but said that social media posts alleging that Bland was dragged out of her car were false.

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Authorities have said the 28-year-old hanged herself Monday morning in a Waller County jail cell, three days after being arrested for allegedly kicking an officer following a traffic stop. Family and friends say they doubt that Bland, who moved from Naperville, Ill., for a job at Prairie View A&M University, killed herself.

On Friday, several dozen people marched a half mile Friday under the hot, noontime sun from the Waller County sheriff’s office to the county courthouse in a call for answers in the incident.

The march, which ended on the steps of the courthouse in this city of 6,300 people northwest of Houston, began as a loosely organized event but grew into an impassioned call for justice and more information.

At the demonstration, Brother Robert S. Muhammad, the Southwest Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam, joined Quanell X, the Houston-based leader of the New Black Panther Nation, and several other speakers at the first of two planned rallies in Hempstead on Friday. Several alumni and students from nearby Prairie View A&M, where Bland was a student, made up a large percentage of the more than 100 attendees.

X began the march “for justice for Sister Sandra” with harsh words about Waller County and its authorities.

“We’ve taken enough hell here in this Waller County, racist town,” he yelled into a megaphone to a crowd marchers who later chanted, “No justice. No peace.”

X later called Waller County officials “devils” who need to know that black community is demanding justice for Bland.

Christina Bonds, a 27-year-old Prairie View A&M graduate and chemical specialist in Houston, made the trip “basically out of support” for the woman that she knew at school and to demand a thorough investigation into her death.

“We don’t know what happened,” she said on a steamy walk to the courthouse. “But it is important to investigate.”

Flanked by members of his own security detail and other speakers, Muhammad complained about the police’s treatment of Bland, which he characterized as “animals (that) dragged her out of the car and body-slammed her” following the alleged traffic infraction. He said the way the officer handled her showed a complete lack of respect for women.

Waller County authorities cautioned that some statements regarding the incident, rampant on social media, were incorrect.

“These kind of events can often take on a life of their own. And I would just caution folks to please be careful of what they see online,” said Waller County Judge Trey Duhon.

Authorities called a news conference to assure the public that the investigation will be thorough and said they welcomed the involvement of the FBI.

“I have every confidence that this investigation will be handled in a completely open and transparent manner,” Duhon said. “We will make sure the full sunlight is shed on all the circumstances of this incident.”

Waller County officials said they have been besieged by inquiries from national and international media and seemed to be caught off guard by accusations on social media that officials could not be trusted.

“I want people to know that this isn’t going to be swept under the rug,” Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told the American-Statesman. “The right thing is going to happen.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, a close friend and mentor of Bland says a social media posting where she talks about being depressed is a “self-diagnosis” and should be “taken with a grain of salt.”

LaVaughn Mosley says he was “unaware of any struggles with depression” and that Sandra Bland was “making plans for the future.”

In a series of Facebook videos earlier this year, Bland also complained about police mistreatment of blacks and what she called the “generation of heads down” — heads buried in smartphones.

Jinaki Muhammad, the Houston-based vice co-chairman of women’s affairs with the National Black United Front, compared the incident in Waller County to the racial unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo. Speaking at the noon rally, she went on to note her lack of trust of the investigating Texas Rangers, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the FBI.

But not everyone in Hempstead was in agreement with the marchers.

A handful of mostly white adults stood on the periphery of the action at the beginning of the rally to shake their heads.

Larry Bartan said he couldn’t understand the outrage.

“It’s ignorance,” he said. “Why raise all the hell?”

Bartan, of Waller, said he believed that Bland’s death was clearly a suicide and he believed she suffered from depression.

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