HEMPSTEAD, Texas - A Chicago-area woman found dead in a Texas jail cell last week was arrested following a traffic stop in which she became combative, swung her elbows at a trooper and kicked him in his right shin, the trooper wrote in an affidavit.
Texas trooper Brian Encinia said in the affidavit released Tuesday that 28-year-old Sandra Bland was pulled over on July 10 in Waller County for failing to signal a lane change. Encinia said that when he asked Bland to exit the vehicle, she became "combative and uncooperative," so she was ultimately "removed from the car."
The trooper said he placed Bland in handcuffs but she became physical, so he used force "to subdue Bland to the ground" as she continued to fight back.
Bland was ultimately arrested for assault on a public servant.
Bland was still incarcerated in a Hempstead jail, awaiting posting of bond, when she was found dead July 13 in her cell. A medical examiner ruled her death a suicide caused by asphyxiation.
Sheriff's Capt. Brian Cantrell says a plastic garbage bag, used to line a trash container in the cell, was used as a ligature by tying it to a partition to a bathroom in the cell. The bag had been approved for use in the jail by a state jail inspector, Cantrell said.
Bland, who was from Naperville, Illinois, was in Texas interviewing for a job at the time of her arrest. Family and friends insist she was looking forward to the new opportunity and that she gave no indication she was in such an emotional state that she would kill herself.
Family attorney Cannon Lambert says some relatives believe she was killed, and they are seeking more information. The family has ordered an independent autopsy be conducted.
In March, Bland posted a video to her Facebook page saying she was suffering from "a little bit of depression as well as PTSD," or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Waller County's chief administrator says he and the district attorney met privately Tuesday with Bland's family members and with their lawyer.
Judge Trey Duhon says Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told Bland's mother and sister that while evidence indicates Bland committed suicide, the prosecutor intends to treat the death "no differently than a murder investigation" where "no stone is left unturned."
Mathis has said no cameras were in the jail cell where Bland was found dead. A video from a camera monitoring the hall outside her cell shows no one entered or left it between the time she last spoke with deputies through an intercom system, asking about making a phone call, and when her body was discovered about an hour later. The hard drive containing the original video has been turned over to the FBI to examine for any manipulation. Mathis has also ordered forensic testing of the cell.
In the aftermath of Bland's death, the Waller County sheriff's office acknowledged that it violated state rules dictating personnel training and the monitoring of inmates.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has acknowledged that the trooper who pulled Bland over violated traffic-stop procedures and the department's courtesy policy. The trooper is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
A video from the trooper's dashcam was expected to be released Tuesday. Bland said it would show a restricted view of the stop because the officer's car was pointed directly ahead and much of the activity was inside Bland's car and then to the side.
Authorities said it was possible Bland was texting, or sending an email or trying to record the trooper on her cellphone. The phone also has been turned over to the FBI. DA Mathis said it was "not a model traffic stop ... and it was not a model person that was stopped on a traffic stop."
The Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating the circumstances of Bland's arrest and death. The county district attorney has said the matter will be turned over to a grand jury, which does not meet again until August.