In July 2015, Sandra Bland was stopped by a Texas state trooper in Prairie View, Texas, on the claim that she had failed to use a turn signal while changing lanes. Dashcam footage from the confrontation showed now-ex-trooper, Brian Encinia, telling Bland "I will light you up" as he threatened to drag her out of her car and tase her during the traffic stop. She was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a public servant. Three days later, she was found dead in her cell, an incident that was later ruled a suicide.
The next year, Encinia was charged with perjury for allegedly lying about the nature of the arrest; the charges were dropped in July 2017. Now, however, WFAA and the Investigative Network have released new footage which Bland recorded on her cell phone that details her eye view of the confrontation with Encinia. Her family says they had never seen the footage, and that it was not included in the discovery they were given during the criminal case against Encinia.
Bland's sister, Shante Needham, told WFAA that she and her family believe the video was intentionally withheld from them. “[The video] not only shows that [Encinia] lied, but that he really had no business even stopping her, period. And at the end of the day, he needs to go to jail.”
"Open up the case, period," she added. "We also know they have an extremely, extremely good cover-up system."
Per the Texas Tribune, the attorney who represented Bland's family also said he had never seen Bland's video until now. "If they had turned it over, I would have seen it, Brian. I’ve not seen that," Cannon Lambert said of the video. Discovery in the federal lawsuit brought on by Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, against Encinia and Waller County was done under seal; the case was later settled for $1.9 million, and also called for Waller County to change its jailing policies.
“The premise that the video was not produced as a part of the discovery process is wrong,” the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement. It is not clear if the video was ever shown to a grand jury.
Dashcam footage from the traffic stop showed Bland with her cell phone in her hand. During an investigation after her death, Encinia reportedly told authorities, "My safety was in jeopardy more than one time."
Lambert told WFAA that Bland's self-recorded footage refutes that. “He sees exactly what’s in her hand. How can you tell me you don’t know what’s in her hand when you’re looking right dead at it. What did she do to make him feel his safety was in jeopardy? Nothing," Lambert said.
Bland's death sparked national outrage, and served as additional fuel in the fight against police brutality by white officers against Black people. She had also been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, and had begun recording videos and posting links about the injustices subjected upon Black people specifically.
Shortly after her death in 2015, the Sun-Sentinel reported that in one of the videos, she said, "Being a Black person in America is very, very hard. Black people know that all lives matter. We can't help but get pissed off when we see situations where it's clear that Black life didn't matter."