The death of an African American woman who died on July 13 while being held in a Texas jail cell will be investigated as thoroughly as if it were a murder, a local district attorney confirmed Monday.
Sandra Bland, originally from Illinois, was discovered hanged just three days after she was arrested for assaulting an officer while being pulled over in Waller County, Texas, about 50 miles west of Houston.
Ms. Bland’s death was originally deemed a suicide, but family and friends have called this narrative into question, saying that Bland would never have harmed herself.
Many details of Bland’s arrest remain unclear, but video evidence from a cell phone has demonstrated that she argued with the police during her arrest, and that she had ended up on the ground. A friend of Bland’s who witnessed the event said that the police were forceful throughout the traffic stop.
The Daily Beast later reported that Bland had tried to post bail just a few days before she allegedly committed suicide.
Bland's family has asked for an independent autopsy to be performed, and requested that the US Justice Department open an investigation into her death. They say Bland had recently relocated to Texas from Chicago to begin a new job, and that she would not have committed suicide.
Nevertheless, some questions remain about Bland’s mental health. On her Facebook page Bland had frequently posted videos of herself opining on a variety of topics such as the Black Lives Matter Movement and her hair, and family confirmed that she was outspoken about allegations of bias and excessive force by law enforcement. In her videos she also mentioned that she struggled with depression.
"I'm suffering from something that some of you all may be dealing with right now. It's a little bit of depression, as well as PTSD," she said in a video posted March 1.
At a press conference on Monday, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said there were "too many questions" to determine how she died. "This is being treated like a murder investigation," he added.