These were the words spoken by Geneva Reed-Veal as she eulogized her late daughter, Sandra Bland, last week.
On July 10, 28-year-old Bland was pulled over by police in Prairie View, Texas for allegedly failing to signal before changing lanes. According to police, she became “combative” and was arrested for “assault on a public servant.”
Three days later, she was found dead in her jail cell. While police claim she died from “self-inflicted asphyxiation” with a garbage bag, and a county autopsy classified the death as a suicide, her loved ones believe foul play was involved. National attention has intensified since Bland’s death, and her name has quickly become a trending hashtag on social media.
Bland’s family released a statement through their lawyer:
The family of Sandra Bland is confident that she was killed and did not commit suicide. The family has retained counsel to investigate Sandy’s death.
A blurry video taken by a bystander of Bland’s arrest shows her facedown on the ground with two officers on top of her. Bland can be heard accusing an officer of slamming her head on the pavement. When one of the officers realizes the incident is being recorded, he approaches the bystander, telling them to leave.
In the days after her death, the police department released the dash camera video, which shows the arresting officer, Texas state trooper Brian Encinia, pulling Bland over and becoming increasingly aggressive after she refused to put out her cigarette. The situation escalates as he tells Bland she is now under arrest and threatens her with a Taser, shouting, “I will light you up.”
The video conflicted with earlier reports that Bland had attacked the officer.
Director Steven McCraw of the Texas Department of Public Safety said Encinia has been placed on administrative duty. He said to CNN:
We have certain procedures in place, and he did not comply with those procedures…A DPS state trooper has an obligation to exhibit professionalism and be courteous throughout the entire contact, and that wasn’t the case in this situation.
Police also released jailhouse footage that showed Bland being brought to the jail and taking her mugshot. The video was shared with the public to combat Internet rumors that Bland was harmed or already deceased when she was jailed.
As Bland was laid to rest at the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Illinois last weekend, her mother reiterated that she didn’t believe her daughter took her own life:
I’m the mama, and I’m telling you that my baby did not take herself out.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, the executive director and cofounder of the African American Policy Forum, which launcheed the #SayHerName movement to foreground the police violence Black women experience, says she was “deeply disturbed” by the case. She hopes the “righteous indignation” surrounding Bland turns into “an active demand for inclusion and accountability.” She told the Ms. Blog:
The entire possibility is that had she been white, she would not have been in that jail cell in the first place…There’s vulnerability that all Black women face and that vulnerability will still be there even if we never know what really happened to Sandra.
Photo taken from Bland’s Facebook page