HOUSTON – A team of special prosecutors has nearly completed its investigation of the arrest and subsequent death of a black woman in a Texas jail, and it plans to finish presenting its evidence to a grand jury by the end of December, one of the prosecutors said Monday.
Houston attorney Darrell Jordan was among five prosecutors tapped by the Waller County district attorney to review evidence after Sandra Bland was found dead in her Waller County jail cell on July 13. The Chicago-area woman was arrested three days earlier after a routine traffic stop turned contentious and ended with the white state trooper holding Bland on the ground.
The grand jury had its first meeting on Nov. 12, but prosecutors discovered they needed more information, Jordan said. Among the information sought — but so far not found — is the identity of the person who took a second video of the arrest that was posted online. The arrest also was record on the state trooper's dashcam.
"It would be helpful if we had the person who shot that video, if there were things that happened before the video recorded and after," Jordan said.
Sen. Royce West, a Dallas Democrat who has been a vocal leader in the case, released a statement earlier Monday saying investigations were wrapping up and it would soon "be up to a grand jury to decide whether the evidence presented warrants a criminal trial."
The 28-year-old woman's death came after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or die in police custody.
Shortly after Bland's death, West — one of two black members of the Texas Senate — met at Prairie View A&M University with the lieutenant governor, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and other state and Waller County officials. They watched the dashcam video of the arrest. Bland had been pulled over for an improper lane change in Prairie View, where she went to interview and accept a job at the school.
West noted that several other investigations have been completed: The Texas Commission on Jail Standards concluded that Bland wasn't properly monitored while in the jail; the Texas Department of Public Safety has said the trooper who arrested Bland, Brian Encinia, didn't properly follow guidelines when he pulled her over.
The Texas Rangers have been handling the Department of Public Safety probe, the Waller County sheriff has said the results of an internal investigation could result in discipline against jail employees, and the FBI also has been asked to review the case.
Bland was unable to post about $500 bond after being arrested on an assault charge. A medical examiner ruled her death a suicide.
West's spokesman, Kelvin Bass, noted that some people initially questioned whether Bland had been killed by someone else, but said West accepted the medical examiner's findings.
Bland's mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the trooper who arrested Bland, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Waller County, the sheriff's department and two county jailers. Her attorneys didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment Monday.