Four years after the brutal arrest and death of Sandra Bland, we just now learned that she filmed her arrest. I’ve shared the video, but I want to unpack and explain who hid it, why, and what the video shows us. Because here’s what we know – across the years – too many Black folk have been killed – and the people set free – based on lies – from Emmitt Till on down.
It’s heartbreaking how many victims of police violence we now know on a first name basis. Four years ago Sandra Bland moved from Chicago to rural Texas to work at Prairie View A&M where she graduated from back in 2009. She had just taken a job there at Prairie View. And I’ve been to the campus – and I retraced the steps that Sandra took on the day she was arrested.
On July 13th of 2015, Sandra Bland took a right turn off of the main street of her college campus and saw a police car speeding behind her. I mean it was roaring. And as a courtesy, she moved her car over to the right to get out of the way. And when she did so, she didn’t use her turn signal. So the officer, Brian Encinia, pulled her over. And let’s be clear, it was an empty road right in front of a Black college campus. This was racial profiling.
And Sandra Bland knew from the jump that her being pulled over was bogus. And for Brian Encinia – this stop was never about turn signals or traffic violations – it was about white power – and it burned him up when he got to the window of Sandra’s car, and saw that she was a proud, informed, strong Black woman – he was completely unnerved. And immediately, it became about power for him. And as soon as Sandra Bland really understood that this wasn’t just a traffic stop, she did something that we never knew she did.
The police knew it. Local prosecutors knew it. And for four years they kept this a secret.
When Sandra Bland saw that Officer Brian Encinia had crossed multiple lines, and was there to do much more than simply give her a ticket, she grabbed her phone and began filming him.
The video is just 39 seconds long, but it’s literally the most important piece of evidence in the case not just against Brian Encinia, but against the Waller County jail, and the local prosecutors who concealed it.
And that they kept this evidence a secret for four years, never releasing it to the public until local journalists started digging and found it, that they kept this evidence a secret from her family, from her dear mother and sisters, from the attorneys for her family, is not just disgusting, it’s deeply unethical is speaks to a coverup.
The video doesn’t include her assault, but it’s still painful to watch. Without any reason, Brian Encinia opens the door to Sandra Bland’s car. That was illegal actually, because an officer has to have reasonable suspicion of a crime to do so, and no such thing existed. He opens the door, then pulls his Taser out of the holster, turns it on, and then sticks it right in her face and tells her “I’m going to light you up.”
In his report, which we always knew was a lie, State Trooper Brian Encinia said that he feared for his life and safety with Sandra Bland on multiple occasions. Of course that was a lie. And when he said so on his official reports, he committed perjury. When he forced Sandra Bland to turn off her phone – which she did after 39 seconds – he again did so in violation of the law.
But again – none of this was about the law – this was all about white power – and the need for a white man to show this young Black woman who was boss.
Making her get out of the car was about that. Making her put her phone down was about that. And as soon as Sandra Bland turned off her phone, Officer Brian Encinia began his assault of her. We can see just a little bit of it from his dash cam – and he brutally slams her right on her head.
And because we’ve been forced to speculate – I have to say that slamming her head on the concrete may have caused a traumatic brain injury right there. Again – because we clearly aren’t dealing with honest people, we’ve been forced to make educated guesses.
What I know is that at the end of this video I hear Sandra Bland telling this officer that she plans on taking him to court. And I think it was that statement, combined with her understanding her rights and letting this officer know that she knew her rights – that made his blood boil even more.
Remember, she was pulled over for failure to use a turn signal. And Bernie Sanders said it on Twitter last night – if Sandra Bland was white, she’d be alive right now. Period.
Brian Encinia never would’ve opened the car door of a white woman for failure to use her turn signal. He never would’ve taken out a stun gun on a white woman, turned it on, stuck it in her face, and told her he was gonna light her up. He never would’ve slammed a white woman on her head. And we know this because he literally never did any such thing to a white woman in his entire career. I checked.