Thursday, May 9, 2019

Sandra Bland's video of Texas traffic stop, released posthumously this week, shows officer lied about threat to his safety and likely lacked grounds to arrest

Sandra Bland, the black motorist who died of an apparent suicide in a Texas jail three days after being arrested in a dubious traffic stop, took her own video of the stop, according to news reports this week. The Bland video raises new questions about the nature of her death and adds to the mountain of evidence that suggests law-enforcement officers are among the most dishonest people on earth.

My wife, Carol, and I have firsthand experience with that, from our unlawful eviction that ended with Missouri deputies breaking Carol's arm -- and then alleging SHE had assaulted one of them, even though the officer in question, Jeremy Lynn, admitted he initiated physical contact with Carol, not the other way around. That meant, as a matter of Missouri law, Carol could not possibly have assaulted a law enforcement officer. But Greene County Judge Jerry Harmison, in a farce of a bench trial, found her guilty anyway.

In retrospect, Carol probably was fortunate to come out of the incident alive. Sandra Bland was not so fortunate -- and the video she took shines new light on her experience. From a report at The New York Times:

Ms. Bland, a 28-year-old African-American from the Chicago area, was taken into custody in southeast Texas following the confrontational 2015 traffic stop and was found hanging in a jail cell three days later in what was officially ruled a suicide. The case, which drew international attention, intensified outrage over the treatment of black people by white police officers and was considered a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement.

The video surfaced for the first time publicly Monday night in an investigative report on the Dallas television station WFAA that included interviews with Ms. Bland’s family and supporters, who accused officials of concealing information that they said should have been made public early in the investigation.

The authorities released the trooper’s dash-cam video days after Ms. Bland’s death, but Ms. Bland’s own recording was never made public — except, it appears, to lawyers and investigators involved in the case. The Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement that the video recording was referred to “multiple times” in its investigative report on the Bland case and was released to the WFAA reporter in response to a public records request. The video “has in no way been concealed by the department,” the statement said.

The 39-second video from Bland's cell phone can be viewed at the top of this post. The full WFAA report can be viewed at the end of this post.

Why is the Bland video important? The Times explains:

The images aired Monday night marked the first time that most people had seen the traffic encounter as Ms. Bland had seen it: a close-up view of the face of the state trooper, Brian T. Encinia, contorting in anger as he pulled out a stun gun and shouted at her to get out of the car. 
“I’m going to light you up!” he yelled, his voice growing hoarse. 
State Representative Garnet Coleman, an African-American lawmaker who chairs the State House’s County Affairs Committee, which conducted statewide hearings following Ms. Bland’s death, said on Tuesday that he plans to call legislative hearings before the current session adjourns on May 27 to look into why the newly surfaced video was not made generally available to the public until now. 
“It is very disturbing to those who have followed the case of Sandra Bland,” he said.

A lawyer for the Bland family takes it several steps further:

Cannon Lambert, a lawyer who represents the Bland family, said he had not seen the video until it was shown to him by the television journalist. “I immediately called my co-counsel and asked whether he had seen it, and he hadn’t seen it either,” he said.

Mr. Lambert said the video, by showing Ms. Bland with a cellphone in her hand, seriously undercut the trooper’s claim that he feared for his safety as he approached the woman’s vehicle.

“What the video shows is that Encinia had no reason to be in fear of his safety,” Mr. Lambert, who represented the family in a $1.9 million legal settlement, said in a telephone interview. “The video shows that he wasn’t in fear of his safety. You could see that it was a cellphone, he was looking right at it.”

Mr. Encinia said during internal interviews with Department of Public Safety officials that he had been worried about his safety. “My safety was in jeopardy at more than one time,” he told department interviewers.

The Bland video shows the officer lied. Our experience with thug cops in Missouri indicates lying is second nature for many of them.

(To be continued)

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