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A Texas grand jury on Monday night decided not to indict anyone in the death of a 28-year-old black woman.
A team of special prosecutors have been investigating the death of Sandra Bland, who was stopped for a traffic violation by Waller County, Texas, police on July 10. Three days later, on July 13, she was found dead in her cell.
A police dashcam video shows that Trooper Brian Encinia, refused to allow Bland to leave her car. Encinia is heard shouting, “I will light you up!” while pointing his stun gun at her. He then pulled Bland from her vehicle and placed her under arrest.
Encinia pulled her over for failing to use her turn signal during a lane change. Bland was on her way from Illinois to Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater, where she had recently secured a job.
The Waller County coroner ruled Bland’s death, caused by strangulation with a garbage bag, a suicide. But her family and protesters across the U.S. say they don’t believe medical examiners’ conclusions and claim police used excessive force while unnecessarily taking her into custody.
The no-indictment decision sparked renewed outrage on social media, where #SandraBland trended and sympathizers expressed their frustration with the system.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley used the occasion to call for criminal justice reform.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is also seeking the presidency as a Democrat, charged in a statement released after the jury’s decision that Bland would not have died were she white.
“Sandra Bland should not have died while in police custody. There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman,” Sanders said. “My thoughts are with her family and her loved ones tonight. We need to reform a very broken criminal justice system.”
Earlier this year, Sanders quietly met with Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal. Although he kept the encounter private, he promised her mother to “Say Her Name,” which he did at the first Democratic presidential debate on Oct. 13.
The grand jury will reconvene for “remaining issues” in early January, according to Darrell Jordan, one of the special prosecutors who spoke to the Washington Post. Jordan declined to comment on how the evidence led to the jury’s decision.
In August, Bland’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit over the young woman’s death. A judge set the trial date for Jan. 23, 2017.
Photo via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Deron Dalton is a social journalist whose work for the Daily Dot focused on police violence, activism, and the Black Lives Matter movement.