Sandra Bland’s Final Free Moments

Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old civil rights activist who died in the Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas, last Monday, might be alive today and her name unknown to all of us if the state trooper who pulled her over for failing to signal a lane change had not become irritated at her refusal to extinguish her cigarette while she sat in her car.

The Texas Department of Public Safety released tonight the dash cam footage of Sandra Bland’s arrest. It is almost an hour in duration, but the arrest takes place in the first 15 minutes or so:

When Ms. Bland leaves the vehicle, after Trooper Brian Encinia has leaned in through her open door, it appears that he has drawn his weapon, which some have suggested is his Taser. She walks, still holding the cigarette, around the rear of the vehicle.

DailyKos provided a transcript, which I share:

Trooper Encinia: OK, ma’am. Are you okay?
Sandra Bland: I’m waiting on you, this is your job.
Trooper Encinia: You seem very irritated.
Sandra: I am. I was getting out of the way, you were speeding up, dialing me. So, I move over and you stop me. So, yeah, I am a little irritated. But that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so I am irritated.
Trooper Encinia: Are you done?
Sandra: You asked me what was wrong and I told you. So now I’m done, yes.
Trooper Encinia: Would mind putting our your cigarette, please?
Sandra: I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?
Trooper Encinia: You can step on out now.
Sandra: I don’t have to step out of my car.
Trooper Encinia: STEP OUT OF THE CAR. (Opens door) Step out..
Sandra: Why am I? No, you don’t have the right…
Trooper Encinia: STEP OUT OF THE CAR
Sandra: No, you don’t have the right to do that
Trooper Encinia: I do have the right. Step out or I will remove you.
Sandra: I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself …
Trooper Encinia: Step out or I will remove you. I’m giving you a lawful order.
Sandra: I’m not moving and I’m going to call my lawyer

When she attempts to record him and says that she will sue him, he tackles her to the ground, and then when she cries out that she has epilepsy, he is heard to yell, “Good!”

She sounds defiant, but everything she said fell completely within her rights, and she complied by leaving the vehicle of her own will. Thus, she was a compliant arrestee. It is not illegal to argue with or merely question the actions of an officer of the law, which she did. What that trooper did, however, was more than merely arrest a woman whom he had stopped for failing to signal a lane change on a busy Friday afternoon.

Perhaps each arrest is unique. Perhaps there is no such thing as an “ideal” arrest. But she was arrested for “assaulting a peace officer.” Stories published in the last week about this story have mentioned that she kicked at Trooper Encinia. If she did, it did not take place on camera.

At no point in the hour-long video is Ms. Bland read her rights. That seems to me to pretty completely represent the relationship our nation’s power structure has with people of color in this year of 2015: No rights read, violent arrest made. One more wrongful death.

Sandra Bland’s death will be investigated as a murder, which is good news. However, the Texas Rangers (that state’s state troopers) will be conducting the investigation; the FBI is going to be supervising, which I hope will help the truth be revealed.

Sandra Bland, from her Twitter timeline

Sandra Bland, from her Twitter timeline

* * * *
Follow The Gad About Town on Facebook! Subscribe today for daily facts (well, trivia) about literature and history, plus links to other writers on Facebook.

Follow The Gad About Town on Instagram!


  1. KarmenF · July 21, 2015

    Reblogged this on Conscious and Breathing and commented:
    Disquieting thoughts for today…


  2. loisajay · July 21, 2015

    The state troopers will be investigating one of their own? I guess we pretty much know how that will turn out…..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Aldrich · July 21, 2015

      Of course, her death happened three days later. I, as a not-reporter, think there is a causal relationship between the trooper’s handling of her and her death. But even when a citizen’s death–the actual death–at the hands of a peace officer is caught on multiple cameras, it doesn’t matter in this power structure. Eric Garner’s family won a civil case and some money. The peace officers were not even indicted.

      So yeah, a death seen by no one and a cop who I am sure the Fox News badge-lovers who walk among us are describing tonight as “tough” and “zealous” in his handling of Ms. Bland, about whom I am sure they are saying terrible things (have they used the “uppity” word yet?), such as we have in the case here? I predict no charges, no wrongful death, nothing to see here, move it along son. And no change.

      But. But. This particular story seems to have caught a lot of peoples’ attention. Maybe her name will remain known as we move on. How many more? And in how many more and different ways?

      Thanks for letting me go on. And on. Like I do.

      Liked by 3 people

      • loisajay · July 22, 2015

        Keep talking, Mark. It makes so much sense to me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jen · July 24, 2015

          Confused, how is the cop responsible if she died 3 days later and committed suicide. We don’t know all the facts here, therefore I can’t say. However we do know all the facts of the 5 service men that were killed in a racist-hate crime, why are we not talking about that and give them their respect. Instead Donald Trump Entertainment 101 and someone who killed themselves in jail is the story of the week. The clear racism here is that if she was white we wouldn’t have even heard about it, let alone have to read all of this, I will reserve my opinion until I know all the facts and see the (REMOVED) video above. Whether or not the officer used ridiculous laws to ask her to exit the car. The law is clear here, that is legal and she chose not to listen to him. He may have been one of those traffic cops with a souped up power image of himself, but it don’t matter he has the right to ask her to exit the car. Stopping someone of a signal change is unheard of, however it is still done and is perfectly legal. So again, the cop may have been a jerk, but he also followed the law perfectly. When will black America learn that u need to simply listen, follow the rules and not give them any grief. Police Officers have a lot of power over us and we are suppose to give them our utmost respect, and most of them deserve it, 99.9% or cops are good cops and it is less than a handful, that were involved in incidents, none of them leading to any charges, OTHER than in Baltimore, and 3 of those cops were black. And if you have looked at the case in Baltimore it is weaker than all of them put together. There is no way the cops in Baltimore murdered that guy. They are saying the driver intentionally drove in a fashion that caused him to be smashed around…btw she was 1 of the 3 black officers charged. Funny how the other guy in the Van on the other side didn’t get hurt or even have a bruise, but did say initially all he heard was terrible loud noises as if the prisoner was trying to hurt and harm himself. Of course he is trying to back out of that statement. No one was in the Van, but 6 officers are charged with murder. Now we have a fail to comply with the above case. Like it or not we have to listen to police officers and do what they say they have many rights and they know the law. They clearly said she killed herself. I have no fact on this. But I do have facts on this the 6 soldiers murdered, and the cops, detectives and traffic cops who were assassinated while sitting in their cars or doing nothing, none of them were black. This is so ridiculous and all you are doing is empowering a race riot. How is this resolved? No peaceful protest, no petition signing, NO the youth used this as an excuse to steal any and everything they could, and if that was;t enough they set their own neighborhood on fire and look like a bunch of maniacs and idiots. How come no other race does this when the same things happen to them. I’m sorry this woman was not well and was scared and stressed to the max that she felt she had to kill herself. I don’t know why she would be in jail for 3 days, I find that appalling, however murder, are u all serious here? God Bless her and her family. And God Bless the 5 soldiers who were shot down assassin style in the streets of Tennessee and i could site at least over 20 deaths of white people whil in custody that has not made the news….


        • Mark Aldrich · July 24, 2015

          I will let this comment stand as an example. Thank you for taking the time to write something.

          But your last point first. “20 deaths of white people whil in custody.” There is a website counting the total number of deaths in police custody in 2015. This is the link: The number as of today is 654. I agree that this is a national problem. It’s a political problem. It’s a power problem. Many white people have died this year in hazy circumstances; I will be writing about this, I promise you, “Jen.” I will be writing this future piece because 654 people seem to have died for 654 unique reasons in which the officers decided that they were being confronted and that was enough, so many of these sound more like excuses than reasons. In some cases, they were confronted. In some, the case reports themselves reveal other things. I agree that this story is under-reported.

          I can not emphasize this loudly enough: The vast majority of those 654 deaths this half-year are black and brown people. The vast majority.

          Thank you for your comment, even though it is an anonymous one. You know, my face is on everything I write, peaceful protest though it merely is. My email address is, too. My phone number can be easily found and used. But anonymity is a useful tool. I believe in its usefulness in places, too.

          If Ms. Bland was your neighbor, “Jen,” you would not be signing a protest letter. If more than one of your neighbors had suffered the same fate, a death that almost seems to have been a reply to not showing enough “respect,” as you put it, you would not be merely signing a protest letter. You would be outraged. You would be campaigning. You would be voting. You might be doing even more. The deaths of police officers this year have most certainly been in the news. Those murders are well-covered and certainly not forgotten. My not writing a piece (I am a one-man operation here and I spend money to do this instead of make money for doing this) commenting on those deaths is not in itself a comment. I apologize if it appears to be a comment.

          Further, I wrote about the Sandra Bland story before it went mainstream (

          You do not seem to view Sandra Bland as your neighbor. Thus, you make a demand, you not so peacefully demand that “black America learn that u need to simply listen, follow the rules and not give them any grief.”

          Here is a thought-experiment: What if you or a loved one happens to have a child? What if that child, a person you know and love, grows to adulthood and one day does not “show respect” to a cop after getting pulled over for not much of a reason? What if your child then dies three days later alone in a jail cell? Would your response be, “Hmm. That’s too bad. Guess there’s nothing we can do about that”? (I am not quoting you there; I am offering a fictional response.) I think you would be outraged. You might not be peaceful. You might start using words like “assassination.”

          But, really, you did not need to write anything after your telling phrase “no other race” to reveal your insides to the world. Not one word, syllable, or letter.

          Racism is invisible to the world, certainly when compared to the nonexistent race differences that the power structure in this country has utilized to its advantage for centuries. “No other race,” you write. You did not need to write another word.

          My name is Mark Aldrich.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Julie · July 22, 2015

    I pray the truth about Sandra’s death will be revealed and I pray that, if there was wrong doing, her death will be avenged. I say “if” because I was not there and do not know. And after watching the movie “A Cry in the Dark” back in 1988, I vowed to never “convict” anyone of murder unless I was there and/or I have all the facts.

    So while I applaud you for bringing awareness to Sandra’s questionable and horrible death, I have to say that statements like “So yeah, a death seen by no one and a cop who I am sure the Fox News badge-lovers who walk among us are describing tonight as “tough” and “zealous” in his handling of Ms. Bland, about whom I am sure they are saying terrible things (have they used the “uppity” word yet?), such as we have in the case here?” diminish your piece.

    Aren’t you against stereotyping?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · July 22, 2015

      Thank you for checking me. The above was in a comment, not in the column itself. I vented, almost removed the passage you quoted, then decided to hit Send.
      You treated me more kindly than some other friends have. Thank you for your kindness, Julie.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Amy · July 22, 2015

    What an outrage. I have been angry at a cop before for getting a ticket and nothing like this ever happened to me because I am white. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. GettingrealwithPTSD · July 22, 2015

    How frightening to be an African American in the U.S. when it comes to dealings with the police. Thank you for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. elizaberrie · July 22, 2015

    Yet another sad story involving the police, the people you should trust. The only good thing in this story is that it is all recorded. Not too long ago, we didn’t have such technology and stories like this remained stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Leigh W. Smith · July 22, 2015

    Her Miranda rights were ignored? I’m shocked. (Not.) Terrible story; the trooper hesitated after asking her to get rid of the cig and he had that opportunity, as was said on a NPR piece this morning, to not escalate it (my word, not the reporter’s), but he–it seems to me–let anger at her perceived surliness fuel the rest of the interaction. As a person who struggles with anger, I have been at that point he was (choosing to remain calm or get angry about something, frankly, inconsequential), and the boundary seems clearly demarcated, especially watching and hearing it here, in the comforts of hindsight. He choose very badly and, if this is his way of governing himself by flying off the handle, he is in the wrong stressful, life-or-death profession. I hope the truth about what happened to Ms. Bland when she was in her cell comes out. About this we can be absolute: Black lives do matter; they always have and always will.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Benn Bell · July 25, 2015

    Good article. Trooper Brian Encinia violated Sandra Bland’s civil rights and precipitated the events that led to her death. He and the jail should be held accountable.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. LindaK · July 30, 2015

    Great article and discussion of a gross injustice. Your response to “Jen” is brilliant. What’s piquing my curiosity now is the news that five women have died in police custody just this month. There’s a story in that if ever there was one—even if it’s one of unimaginable coincidence. But it appears there could be a separate issue to be examined regarding the treatment of women in jail. If police are bullies on the streets, I fear to think what they may be once within the safe havens of their precincts. It’s the perfect setting for sexual harassment and abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. MLou · August 13, 2015

    So sad…all over a traffic violation and extinguishing a cigarette…what in the world are things coming too….?????

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Today in History: July 13 | The Gad About Town

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.