February 7, 1987
July 13, 2015
Age at Death:
Sandra Annette Bland was from Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and was one of five sisters. She attended Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, Illinois, where she was a varsity cheerleader, part of the marching band, and a member of the World Languages Honor Society, she had an A average. She then attended Prairie View A&M University outside Hempstead in Waller County, Texas, where she was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in agriculture. At Prairie View, she was recruited as a summer counselor for three years, played in the marching band, and volunteered for a senior citizens advocacy group. Bland returned to Illinois in 2009, where she worked in administration for Cook's, a food-service equipment supplier, a job she left shortly before her death. She had been due to start a temporary job on August 3, 2015, with Prairie View as a summer program associate.
A minor traffic infraction on July 10, 2015, led to a confrontation between a Texas State Trooper and Sandra Bland. The trooper asked for Bland’s license and registration, and she quietly complies. However, when he turned around and asked Bland to extinguish her cigarette, the interaction turned heated. The trooper then demanded that she exit her car. Bland refused and wanted to know why she was being asked to do so. The argument continued, and the trooper drew out his stun gun and said, “I will light you up. Get out. Now. Get out of the car.” The trooper then handcuffed Bland. She can be heard screaming obscenities at him, demanding to know why she was being arrested. Bland was also heard shouting that the officer is about to break her wrists, the trooper slammed her to the ground and she hit her head. Bland was held at the station in lieu of a $5,000 bail. At 9:07 am on July 13, 2015, Sandra Bland was found dead, hanging from a privacy partition, inside her jail cell. Officials described the incident as a suicide. However, her family and friends refused to believe this and claimed that she had no reason to kill herself. There was a six-minute gap in the jailhouse video from the final hours before she was found dead. This, of course, raised a lot of questions. The footage from 7:18 a.m. to 7:24 a.m. was missing.
Was justice served?
In March 2016, the trooper was fired. He is ineligible to be hired as an officer and is not permitted to pursue employment in law enforcement. However, no one was charged in the case of Bland’s jailhouse death. In a wrongful death lawsuit, Sandra Bland’s family reached a $1.9 million settlement in September 2016. Texas Senate Bill 1849, also known as the Sandra Bland Act, went into effect on September 1, 2017, and mandated change to corrections and police policy when dealing with those with substance abuse or mental health concerns. Police officers are required to complete comprehensive racial profiling training and forty hours of de-escalation training. Law enforcement agencies will maintain records documenting race or ethnicity of all persons detained and whether the officer knew the individual's race or ethnicity prior to being detained. In addition, police officers will undergo training to limit uses of force. County jails are required to collect information on mental illness or intellectual disability. If need arises and is reasonable, pending charges may be suspended and an individual may be diverted to a treatment facility. In the event of a death in custody, the custodial agency will begin an investigation until a representative of an outside agency is on scene. In addition, electronic monitoring will be in place to ensure timely security checks for the welfare of those incarcerated.