Sandra Bland asked why she was being detained at least 14 times during the routine traffic stop that resulted in her arrest and subsequent death in a Texas jail cell, according to newly released dash cam footage.
She never got a straight answer.
In the 52-minute video, the state trooper who pulled Bland over (for allegedly failing to signal a lane change) asks Bland to put out her cigarette. When she tells him she doesn’t have to, he asks her to step out of her car.
That’s when the scene escalates. Bland is heard telling the officer on three separate occasions that she does not have to step out of her car and that he does not have the right to tell her to do so. But the officer demands she do so, at one point pulling out a Taser and threatening to “light her up.”
“I am getting removed from my vehicle for failure to signal,” Bland says repeatedly, in disbelief.
Over the next three minutes Bland asks the officer at least 14 times why she is being placed under arrest. The officer never answers. “If you would have just listened,” appears to be the only time he attempts to answer Bland.
At one point, off camera, Bland claims that the officer slammed her head into the ground and she cannot hear.
Bland died in her Waller County jail cell three days later from an alleged self-asphyxiation. The Waller County D.A. said the investigation into her death is being treated like a murder but believes she killed herself. The case has sparked a national conversation about the policing of black women and raised questions about the circumstance surrounding her death.
It’s not clear whether the officer knew the answer to Bland’s question. Near the 28-minute mark of the footage, he is heard asking someone what to charge Bland with. “That’s why I’m calling you and asking you,” he says. “Because she was detained and as I was walking her over to the car just to calm her down, you know…that’s when she started kicking me.”
The officer continued: “So I mean, I don’t know if It’d be resist or if it’d be assault, you know? I kinda lean toward assault versus resist, because, I mean, technically she was under arrest when the traffic stop was initiated,” he said. “That’s a lawful stop. You’re not free to go.”
According to the New York Times, Bland was arrested for assaulting a public servant. After Bland was already handcuffed, the officer tells her she was arrested for resisting an officer.
In the video, the arresting officer explains to someone off-camera why his interaction with Bland escalated. “She wasn’t even looking at me,” he said. “She was just mad.”
Was being mad the reason for Sandra Bland’s arrest?
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Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.