Family demands answers after Chicago area woman found dead in Texas jail cell

Image 1 of 2

The family of a suburban woman found hanged in a Texas jail cell is demanding answers.

Sandra Bland’s sisters are struggling to believe she would have committed suicide, as Texas officials have said.

“Based on the Sandy that I knew, that's unfathomable to me,” said Sharon Cooper, one of Bland’s four sisters.

Bland, who lived in Naperville, had just gone to Texas to start a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M.

But what started as a routine traffic stop Friday after Bland changed lanes without signaling, turned ugly. Bland can be heard yelling and cursing as police as she was pinned to the ground.

A cell phone video of part of the arrest captured the sound of Bland yelling. 

“You just slammed my head into the ground! Do you not even care about that?” Bland is heard yelling.

The family is trying not to rush to judgement on what happened.

“I feel like that's a snippet. There were clearly things that happened prior to that time, and I have to understand that for it to be logical and make sense,” Cooper said.

Police say Bland she was arrested after becoming argumentative and combative, and then kicked the officer who stopped her.
Bland called one of her sisters the next day and told her what happened.

“She informed me that she had been arrested. She said they couldn't tell her what she was arrested for, until an hour before she had called,” said sister Shante Needham. “She had proceeded to say that the officer had put his knees in her back, and that she thought her shoulder was broken. She said that her bond was $515 and I told her that I would work on getting her out.”

The Justice of the Peace said Bland was found in the Waller County Jail Monday morning with injuries to her neck and a plastic bag in the cell. Her death was ruled a suicide.

“There's a lot of people saying that there's foul play, we don't know. We don't know that there was, we don't know that there wasn't, but we sure need to know,” said family attorney Cannon Lambert.

Bland, who was very concerned about racial and social justice matters, and frequently posted videos she entitled "Sandy Speaks", self-diagnosed herself with depression in this March 1st 2015 clip on Facebook.

“I am suffering from something that some of you all might be dealing with right now. It's a little bit of depression as well as PTSD,” Bland said.

But the family had no reason to believe Bland would do anything to harm herself.

“Sandy's mental state is that she was a 28 year old beautiful woman with a family that loved her to death and friends that loved her to death and was going to take a brand new job. That was her mental state,” attorney Lambert said.

Lambert also said he and family members will be traveling to Texas and they are hoping to speak to the Texas Ranger who is heading the investigation. But they don’t want social media to drive this case while they wait for the fact.

“Very much wanting to ask for calm and to allow the process, the investigative process to take form,” Lambert said. “We don't want to see Sandy politicized, her life politicized and we don't want to see her death politicized.” 

The FBI is now assisting in the investigation.