In a move aimed at tamping down unfounded rumors circulating on the Internet, Waller County, Tex. officials released video Tuesday showing that Sandra Bland was indeed alive in a mugshot taken in the county jail following her July 10 arrest.
Trey Duhon, a county judge in Waller County, walked reporters through hours worth of footage in response to the rumors, which began shortly after Bland’s July 13 death. The Illinois native’s death was ruled a suicide. Authorities say she hanged herself in her jail cell using a plastic bag.
But Bland’s untimely death — she was slated to take a new job at a nearby university — and the circumstances of her arrest by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper led many to speculate that she was actually murdered. Perhaps the most bizarre claim among those theories has been that Bland was dead when Waller County jailers took her mugshot.
The mugshot theory was mostly confined to the deeper recesses of Twitter and other social media sites until last week when Buzzfeed, USA Today and other outlets published articles lending credence to the idea.
Buzzfeed’s article was entitled “People Are Speculating That Sandra Bland Was Already Dead When Authorities Took Her Mugshot.” The article floats the idea as a possibility but does little to show it relied on little evidence. Other outlets, like New York magazine, criticized Buzzfeed for giving air to the rumor.
Theorists claimed that Bland’s blank stare in her mugshot indicated she was dead in the picture. They also pointed to the alignment of her shoulders, which are square rather than sloped. The online sleuths have also argued that Bland’s mugshot was taken from above while she was laying on her back on the ground.
Duhon laid all of that speculation to rest, noting that Bland’s expression in her mugshot could be explained by the fact that she was sleeping in her jail cell just before the picture was taken.
“We’re seeing people fabricate information,” Duhon told reporters. “Unfortunately you have people putting information out there that she was murdered and deceased before she came to the Waller County jail.”
Duhon said that the videos are being released now because of threats made against Waller County officials and property. He said that the county has also been under cyber attack.
The hours of video footage show Bland being booked into the Waller County jail. They show her posing for a front and side mugshot, giving her fingerprints and sitting for hours in a jail cell. Bland is also seen making several phone calls and standing in front of a magistrate.
Bland was arrested by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper following a minor traffic infraction. The trooper, Brian Encinia, is seen handling Bland aggressively. At one point he threatens to taser her. After an altercation, Encinia arrests Bland on a charge of assaulting an officer. He said Bland kicked him.
Bland was unable to get the $500 in bail money she needed to get out of jail. The man she called while she was being booked into jail reportedly told Bland he was going to show up to help her but never did.
While Bland’s family and activists have said that Bland had no reason to kill herself, a jail intake interview shows that Bland said she was depressed and tried to commit suicide last year after having a miscarriage. Conspiracy theorists have claimed that those forms were fabricated in order to cover up the circumstances of Bland’s death.