The death of the civil rights activist, Sandra Bland, whose death sparked nationwide outrage and controversy, is now being treated as a murder investigation. Despite the initial report released after her death on 13 July last year, the suspected suicide is now being ruled out.
The 28-year-old from Chicago, Illinois, was arrested 10 July 2015 after being pulled over for failing to use a turn signal when switching lanes.
Video footage released by the dashboard camera of the police vehicle, shows Bland being confronted by the police officer and after several minutes of conversation, and was then a victim to excessive physical force. Bland was later charged with the assault of a public servant during the traffic stop.
After 3 days in police custody Bland was found dead in her cell in Waller County Jail on 13 July after authorities said she hanged herself with a plastic bin bag.
Last year, her death sparked nationwide outrage and debate as many believed she was dead when her mugshot was taken. Suspicions were also raised when others found inconsistencies in her arrest documents.
Some said the shadow on the surface behind Bland’s head and the positioning of her shoulders showed she may have been lying on the floor, rather than sitting up straight. Others questioned why her mugshot was not taken in the clothes she was arrested in.
Bland was considered as an activist for black rights and regularly used the #SandySpeaks hashtag to post videos on Facebook to raise awareness of the police brutality and racism.
Her case captured national attention as for many people, Bland is one of the numerous victims of what they say is widespread racial bias and police brutality.
Since her death, posts with the hashtag #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland have gone viral on both Facebook and Twitter.
The allegation of her supposed suicide sparked outrage amongst those who knew Bland.
“Based on the Sandy I knew, this is unfathomable to me,” Cooper, Bland’s sister, said of her hanging. People who knew her, truly knew her, the depth of her, that’s unfathomable right now”.
Elton Mathis, Waller County’s district attorney has said “There are too many questions that need to be resolved. Ms. Bland’s family does make valid points. She did have a lot of things going on in her life for good,” Mathis said.
Weeks before her death, Bland was appointed Student ambassador job in her Alma Mater, Prairie View A&M University in Texas, where she graduated in 2009.
Despite the coroner reports released on 23 July last year that ruled suicide, the case remains open and is still being investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI and Texas Rangers.