The investigation in the death of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old African-American woman who allegedly hung herself inside a Texas jail cell last week, is now being treated as a murder investigation after relatives assured police that her suicide was “unfathomable.”
Waller County, Texas, District Attorney Elton Mathis said in a news conference Monday that the case would be treated “just as it would be in a murder investigation.”
“There are many questions being raised in Waller County, across the country and the world about this case; it needs a thorough review,” Mathis said. “It will go to a grand jury.”
The timeline of events before her death still remains unclear as the incident continues to gain national attention, according to The Washington Post.
Bland was arrested at a traffic stop on July 10 after failing to signal a lane change. The incident allegedly escalated after she refused to put out her cigarette. She was then arrested and jailed, The New York Times reports.
The arresting officer released a statement that Bland was “argumentative and uncooperative,” during the encounter, according to a report by CNN. She was arrested on a charge of assaulting a public servant.
On the date of her death, Sandra Bland refused breakfast when an officer was conducting rounds after 7 a.m. and later inquired about how to make a phone call. By 9 a.m., another officer saw Bland hanging in her cell and called for assistance.
Video surveillance footage shows a period of roughly 90 minutes with no activity in the hallway leading to Bland’s cell before her death. There were no cameras inside or around the vicinity of the cell itself.
Although a medical examiner has ruled Bland’s death a suicide by “self-inflicted asphyxiation,” relatives and other supporters insist Bland was in good spirits in the weeks preceding her death. Bland was looking forward to a new job at Prairie View A&M University, where she graduated in 2009, and was about to accept the position.
Bland’s family has called for a response from the Justice Department, and an independent autopsy has been ordered.
LaVaughn Mosely, a close friend of Sandra Bland, says that he is confident that there is more to the story.
“I talked to her Friday and she was in good spirits, Although she was incarcerated, she was in good spirits. She was looking forward to posting bond Saturday and getting out. So you don’t go from that to hanging yourself,” Mosely said.
Democratic Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee called for the Justice Department to investigate the death, according to the Times.
“Someone’s child died; some young woman died that this family loves, and we owe them an explanation. I cannot sense under the facts that I know now that a 28-year-old young woman, excited about a new job, posed a threat to anybody in Waller County, including any law enforcement officer,” she said.