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.
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