FBI joins investigation into death of Waller County inmate

The FBI along with the Texas Rangers are looking into what transpired in that Waller County jail cell.

HOUSTON -- The FBI and the Texas Rangers are now investigating the circumstances surrounding the Waller County death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland.

The Harris County medical examiner has ruled Bland's hanging death in the Waller County jail was a suicide.

Bland was found in her jail cell on Monday morning. The Waller County Sheriff's Office says she was "not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation" and CPR was immediately performed. Bland was pronounced dead shortly after.

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith said video shows Bland was alone in her cell before she died.

"It appears she had used a trash bag to hang herself from a partition in the ceiling, which was used to give inmates privacy," said Elton Mathis, district attorney of Waller County.

Family members and friends have since spoken out and said Bland would never hurt herself. They say she was excited about starting a new job and new life in Texas. She was a graduate of Prairie View A&M in Waller County and had recently accepted a job with the college.

"I talked to her Friday and she was in good spirits," said LaVaughn Mosely. "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."

Bland was pulled over on a traffic stop Friday in Prairie View. She became "argumentative and uncooperative," according to a statement from the DPS.

"She had become combative on the side of the road," Smith said.

Bland was arrested on a charge of assaulting a public servant.

Mosely said she called him from jail Friday night and told him her version of what happened.

"She was smoking when he pulled her over. Told her to put her cigarette out, she had an exchange of words and it just went downhill. She said he snatched her out of the window and slammed her on her face," Mosely said.

Since her death, alleged video of Bland's arrest has been posted to both Facebook and YouTube. The video shows deputies cuffing Bland on the ground. She appears to be yelling, saying the deputies slammed her head into the ground. One of the deputies then turns his attention to the person recording the altercation, telling them they need to leave.

(Warning: The YouTube video contains language that some may find offensive.)

From the barber shop across the street, Renee McKnight had a front row seat to Bland's arrest.

"She was telling him to get his so and so hands off of her and jerking away from him," McKnight said.

McKnight said she then saw Bland end up on the ground.

"I couldn't tell if he slammed her down there or it was a maneuver she did trying to stop him from putting her in the car caused her to be put on the ground," McKnight said. "She was very very upset. She wasn't trying to get in that police car."

Bland was from the Chicago area, and her family there is now closely watching the investigation. They have hired an attorney and hope to meet the Texas Rangers leading the investigation Monday. A prayer vigil has been planned Sunday.

Mathis spoke of a video that surfaced of Bland in March, in which she speaks about depression and that she suffered from PTSD. But it still doesn't add up for Mosley.

"I can't understand how somebody from a routine traffic stop can end up in jail and dead three days later," Mosley said.

Mathis said the Texas Rangers would conduct a thorough investigation.

"I understand there's some disbelief among some friends and family that she would do this to herself," Mathis said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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