The mother of Sandra Bland filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that Bland should never have been arrested and that Texas officials are responsible for Bland’s death.
The wrongful-death lawsuit names as defendants Texas state trooper Brian T. Encinia, who arrested Bland, along with two guards at the Waller County Jail, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Waller County.
Bland, from Illinois, died in a Texas jail cell last month. Texas officials ruled her death a suicide, but Bland’s family has disputed that conclusion.
Encinia on July 10 made up a reason to arrest Bland, who was originally pulled over for failure to signal a lane change, according to the complaint. Video from Encinia’s dashboard camera shows Bland pulled over but the situation escalating after Encinia ordered Bland to put out her cigarette and Bland questioned the order. Bland was then ordered out of the car and threatened with a taser, before being arrested on a charge of assaulting a public servant.
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Following her arrest, Bland was held in jail in Waller County, a rural area outside of Houston with a history of racial violence. Three days later she was found hanging in her jail cell.
The lawsuit accuses Encinia of using inappropriate force during the incident, which “caused Sandra Bland to suffer injury and death.” The lawsuit also accuses Waller County authorities of failing to react when Bland refused food and had bouts of uncontrollable crying. Despite the fact that Bland told jail officials she had attempted suicide in the past, officials placed her in a cell “with a variety of inappropriate items” including a large garbage can, garbage bags, and exposed beams.
According to the lawsuit, jail guards did not check on Bland frequently enough, which led to her death.
Bland had recently relocated to Waller County just a few days before her arrest to start a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, and was outspoken and critical of police violence against the Black community.
The Bland family also renewed calls for the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Bland’s death.