Sandra Bland's cell phone video of 2015 Texas traffic stop comes to light
WALLER COUNTY, Texas (FOX 26) - New cell phone video of the traffic stop involving Sandra Bland has come to light. A Texas state representative is launching an investigation into the handling of the controversial case in Waller County that received national attention.
Sandra Bland started recording video the afternoon a DPS trooper pulled her over near Prairie View A&M. An organization called the Investigative Network obtained the video shot by Bland and posted it to their YouTube channel.
In 2015, that trooper told Bland he pulled her over for failing to signal a lane change. On his dashcam, you can hear him ask her to put out her cigarette. She asks why she has to. Then things quickly escalated. That's when Bland started recording.
The clip begins at the most dramatic moment of the July 2015 traffic stop near Prairie View A&M University: Trooper Brian Encinia has opened Bland's car door and draws his stun gun as she tries to steady her phone's camera. The flashlights on the stun gun flick on and Encinia yells, "Get out of the car! I will light you up. Get out!"
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Bland exits the car and continues to record Encinia as he orders her onto the sidewalk. The stun gun is still pointed at her and the flashlights remain on. He instructs her to get off the phone, to which Bland replies, "I'm not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property."
The video ends seconds later after Encinia tells her to put the phone down.
Bland was arrested during the stop. She died in the Waller County jail three days later. Her death was ruled a suicide even though her family has been adamant they don't believe she hanged herself in her cell.
The emergence of the cellphone video raised questions about who had seen it until now. Cannon Lambert, an attorney for the Bland family who settled lawsuits against the state and county jail that totaled nearly $2 million combined, said he never saw the clip until it was recently shared by a reporter.
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Lambert said he didn't see the video in evidence turned over by investigators, which he said he wanted to believe was just human error. Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman, who in 2017 carried the "Sandra Bland Act" that the family criticized for being weakened before signed into law, said Monday night he would look into why Bland's family never saw the footage.
"It is troubling that a crucial piece of evidence was withheld from Sandra Bland's family and legal team in their pursuit of justice," Coleman said in a statement.
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Katherine Cesigner, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the cellphone video was known to all parties at the time and said that two years following the litigation, it was "unclear what arrangements, if any, were made by the plaintiffs to view the video."
The department disputed the premise that the video was not provided, saying it was included as part of a large hard drive of evidence from the investigation. It also said Sandra Bland's cellphone video had previously been publicly released in 2017, when it was given to an Austin television station under open records law.
Encinia, who was fired after being indicted for perjury over the traffic stop, said he came to fear for his safety after stopping Bland for failing to signal a lane change.
"The video makes it abundantly clear there was nothing she was doing in that car that put him at risk at all," Lambert said.
The perjury charge was later dropped in exchange for Encinia agreeing to never work in law enforcement again.
MORE: Perjury charge dismissed for former trooper in Sandra Bland case
That Bland was holding up a cellphone is clear in the original dashcam footage. Chip Lewis, Encinia's attorney, said the cellphone footage doesn't illuminate anything beyond what the dashcam video already showed.
He said "furtive gestures" made by Bland from inside her car presented a risk and was the impetus for Encinia trying to remove her.
"From a law enforcement standpoint, it had nothing to do with her being agitated as you may have seen on her recording," Lewis said.
MORE: Dash cam video of state rep's traffic stop released
The Associated Press contibuted to this report.