As Conspiracy Theories Swirl, Sandra Bland’s Co-Inmate Says She Likely Committed Suicide

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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As conspiracy theories circulate concerning the death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland, a woman who was in Waller County, Tex. jail with the Illinois native says she believes she killed herself.

Alexandria Pyle told Houston’s KTRK that Bland was distraught after being arrested on July 10 in the southeast Texas county. She also said she did not hear any commotion on the morning of July 13, the day Bland was found dead in her jail cell.

Authorities have claimed Bland hanged herself with a plastic bag. Waller County district attorney Warren Diepraam said on Thursday that Bland’s death was consistent with suicide and that there was no evidence of “violent struggle.”

“I don’t think the guards did anything. I mean it’s a tragedy either way,” Pyle told KTRK. “I don’t think she should have been in the other tank, alone by herself…because we’re over here, we’re trying to keep each other laughing all the time, and she’s over there hearing that. That would make anybody sad.”

Besides being upset over her arrest, Bland was distraught because a friend she said was going to bail her out of jail had not showed up to get her, Pyle said.

“She said, ‘He’s not answering, it’s going straight to voicemail. I don’t know why, I don’t know why. He said he’s going to be here in an hour, and it’s days later,'” Pyle told the news station. Bland was being held on $5,000 bond which would have required her to pay $500 to get out of jail.

Pyle said that Bland was crying in the jail and said, “I’m not equipped for this kind of life. I don’t need to be here, I don’t deserve to be here, I didn’t do anything.”

The circumstances of Bland’s arrest and death has generated widespread outrage which has dovetailed into speculation that she was murdered while in jail.

Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia pulled Bland over for failure to signal a lane change. Video dash cam footage shows an escalating conflict between the 30-year-old officer and Bland. After writing a citation, Encinia commands Bland to put out her cigarette. When she refuses, he orders her out of her car. When she refuses that, he forcefully removes her. During an altercation, Encinia is heard telling Bland “I will light you up” — seemingly threatening Bland that he would use his Taser.

When Bland complains that she’s unable to breathe and suffers from epilepsy, Encinia is heard saying, “good.” He arrests her on charges of assaulting an officer.

Jail video footage from the morning of Bland’s death shows officers peeking into her cell throughout the morning. But at one point, an officer peeks in and calls for help. Other officers arrive, where they allegedly found Bland’s body.

But Bland’s family and friends have denied that she was suicidal and that she would have killed herself, pointing out that Bland had recently landed a new job at her alma mater, Prarie View A&M.

Those skeptical of the official narrative have cited inconsistencies in documents that the jail compiled on Bland. An initial report states that Bland was not on medication and that she did not claim to be suicidal. But a later report shows Bland did claim that she was taking medicine for epilepsy and that she attempted suicide by using pills last year after losing a baby.

The sheriff’s department has claimed that the reports are inconsistent because inmates are given two interviews — one before intake and another after booking. Bland changed her answers, officials have said.

Questions over the differences in those reports are the tamest of the conspiracy theories that have arisen in the aftermath of Bland’s death.

One of the most bizarre theories — which were compiled by the website Buzzfeed on Thursday — is that Bland’s mugshot was not taken until after she had died. Conspiracy theorists have alleged that the alignment of Bland’s shoulders indicates that she was already dead and that the mugshot was taken while she was laying on her back on the ground. The gray background behind Bland is the floor of her jail cell, the theorists have claimed.

That theory has circulated despite the existence of a second mugshot — this one taken from the side — in which Bland appears to be standing up.

Sandra Bland's booking sheet

Sandra Bland’s booking sheet

Buzzfeed cites another question circulating among conspiracy theorists. While Bland wears a bright orange jumpsuit in her mugshot, most others booked into the Waller County jail are photographed wearing the clothes in which they were arrested.

In its report, Buzzfeed states that while it is not common that inmates are seen wearing jumpsuits in their mugshots, it does occasionally occur.

“Depending on how many inmates are being processed at this time, an inmate’s photograph may be taken in their original clothing, or the inmate may be dressed out in orange,” officials with the sheriff’s department told Buzzfeed in a statement.

Other theorists have argued that Bland may have been lying on the ground because the gray background matches the color of her jail cell floor.

But other mugshots clearly show that inmates are photographed in front of a gray wall.

Whether or not Bland committed suicide, law enforcement officials have admitted that many failures occurred during her arrest and after.

Most agree that Encinia had no grounds to command Bland to get out of her vehicle and to arrest her. She also should have received better care in jail since she had a history of depression and attempted suicide.

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