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Death of #BlackLivesMatter activist Sandra Bland now a murder probe

Outrage over civil rights fighter Sandra Bland's Texas jailhouse death is boiling over.

The video at the top of this article shows Sandra Bland's arrest for a minor traffYouTube; Facebook (inset)

Sandra Bland spent her days as a fighter in the Black Lives Matter movement and even did a series of videos encouraging black Americans, who she called her "kings and "queens," to believe that change was possible, personally and politically.

She was, by all accounts, quite aware of the mistrust and fear many of her fellow African-Americans hold for cops.

On Friday, July 10, the 28-year-old woman from Naperville, Illinois drove to her alma mater inPrairie View, Texa,s for a job interview. On July 13, she was found dead, hanging with a plastic bag around her neck in a15-by-20-foot cell.

Texas Rangers, under FBI supervision on Monday, opened a murder investigation as more and more people ask: Will Sandra Bland's life matter?

Bland was taken into custody when local Texas cops pulled her over for allegedly failing to use a signal while changing lanes.Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith called the death a suicide, plain and simple.

The activist had admitted in March to suffering from depression, but disturbing details have emerged -- disturbing enough to spark ther announcement of a murder probe.


Just a little #SandySpeaks to make your day

Posted by Sandra Bland on Saturday, February 7, 2015

Among them:

  • A civilian video of Bland's arrest emerged, showing her pinned to the ground and screaming in pain that she had lost her hearing after her head was slammed to the ground.
  • Waller County's history of racism: It had some of the highest numbers of lynchings in Texas between 1877 and 1950.
  • Sheriff Smith, who insisted nothing wrong went down, was accused of racismin 2007while chief of police in Hempstead, Texas. He was later fired.
  • The Texas Commission on Jail Standards cited the Waller County jail last week with poor training practices after Bland's death. The same agency slammed the jail i n 2012, after the suicide of an inmate.

Suicide is“unfathomable,”said Bland'ssister, Sharon Cooper.

“It is unimaginable and difficult for us to wrap our minds around,” Cooper said.

“We understand that she was stopped,” Cooper said. “We understand that she felt that she was handled very harshly, that she was handled in a way that was overzealous from her perspective.”

Bland's family has called in theRev. Jamal Bryant, of the Empowerment Temple AME Church of Baltimore for support and guidance.

“This was not a case of suicide, but homicide,”he said.

Family lawyerCannon Lambert echoed the sentiment that Bland was killed.

"This family is really looking to understand what happened," Lambert said. "We don't understand this. It doesn't make sense."

The new murder investigation is leaving everything on the table.

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said on Monday there were "too many questions" to determine how Bland died.

"This is being treated like a murder investigation," Mathis said.

Officials will examine fingerprints and run DNA tests on the plastic trash bag found around Bland's neck, he noted.

The family is also asking the U.S. Justice Department to open an investigation.

The trooper who took Bland into custody has been put on desk duty for violating protocol during her July 10 arrest, the Department of Public Safety said.


|#SandraBland|Official university statement:The Prairie View A&M University family mourns the death of our alumna,...

Posted by Prairie View A&M University on Thursday, July 16, 2015

John A. Oswald is editor-at-large at Metro and can be found on Twitter@nyc_oz.
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