Many questions still remain after a grand jury on Monday chose not to indict anyone in connection to the mysterious and disturbing death of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old black woman who died in a Southeast Texas county jail last July.
Prosecutor Darrell Jorden said the Waller County grand jury had not yet reached a decision on whether Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia—who was seen in dashcam footage assaulting and threatening to taser Bland before her arrest on July 10—should face charges. The jury is expected to reconvene next month to decide.
Bland’s mother, speaking at a press conference following the announcement, slammed the entire grand jury process for its failure to provide answers, if not justice.
“Right now the biggest problem I have is the entire process,” said Geneva Reed-Veal. “It’s the secrecy of it all.”
The grand jury reached the decision that no felony crime was committed by the sheriff’s office or jailers after a closed-door hearing. The jury was presented evidence by a team of five special prosecutors appointed by Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis, including the findings of a Texas Rangers’ investigation.
Texas officials, backed by a medical examiner’s report, have maintained that Bland killed herself while in police custody. Family and friends have repeatedly questioned those claims, seeking more details about the circumstances surrounding her death.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Reed-Veal explained how little information the family has been given.
“As I sit around this room and look at all of you, you came here to get answers to your questions right? Had I sat here—anyone of us sat here—and not answered your questions, you wouldn’t have a story right? You wouldn’t have any information,” Reed-Veal said. “That’s where we sit right now. We don’t have any information on what happened to my daughter.”
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On July 10, Bland, an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement, was pulled over by Encinia after failing to properly signal a lane change. She had just moved to Texas from Naperville, Illinois for a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.
“She left home excited about an opportunity. She got that opportunity and somewhere between a two- to three- day period, something horrible happened to her,” Reed-Veal continued. “So I can’t sit here and tell you what I think happened. Something bad happened. And something that happened to her should not have happened. She should have never been in a cell… I think she should have never been incarcerated. Period.”
Reed-Veal said that the family has not been notified of any physical evidence presented to the grand jury and had not been consulted or questioned during the investigation. “I simply can’t have faith in a system that’s not inclusive of my family,” Reed-Veal added. “We’re supposed to have an investigation to show us what’s happening. We know what we’ve been listening to in the media … but we don’t have any real evidence.”
In August, Bland’s family filed an unlawful death suit against Encinia and several other members of the Waller County Sheriff’s office. At the same time, others are calling for a Department of Justice investigation into the case.
“We demand the Department of Justice take a stand for black women and are deeply disappointed that they haven’t thus far,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of national women’s rights group UltraViolet, said in a statement Tuesday.
“Waller County Police must be held accountable: we saw their violence on camera before Sandra’s death at the traffic stop, what do they do off camera?” Chaudhary continued. “Only a full DOJ investigation will answer important questions about police violence in Waller County. The deaths of Black women at the hands of police—with no accountability—needs to be stopped.”
A portion of Bland’s family press conference can be viewed below:
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