There are still several questions that remain in connection with the 2015 death of Sandra Bland while she was in custody at a Waller County, Texas, jail. Now an officer of the small Texas town where Bland was pulled over says that he has evidence of wrongdoing in Bland's case but was threatened into silence by the county's top prosecutors, the Associated Press reports.
Prairie View Officer Michael Kelley detailed his account to the newswire: Bland appeared to have marks on her forehead after the controversial confrontation with state Trooper Brian Encinia, who pulled her over for a simple traffic violation that quickly escalated. Encinia was allegedly on the phone with a supervisor after arresting Bland because he was unsure what charge Bland should face; the police report Encinia submitted left out key details.
Kelley said that special prosecutors in charge of the case never contacted him and that the Waller County district attorney's top assistant threatened that there would be repercussions if he spoke to an attorney for Bland's family.
"I didn't become a cop to become shady like a lot of officers," Kelley told AP. "I became a cop to do justice and to try to change the community which I work in."
Prosecutors have denounced the accusations, AP notes, accusing Kelly of trying to distract from his own controversial case. As AP notes, Kelley is currently suspended from the Police Department after being caught on video using a Taser on a black city councilman. Kelley was indicted on a charge of official oppression.
"I unequivocally state that he never approached me, my first assistant or any member of my staff with any such information," Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said. "I can only imagine this is an attempt to divert attention."
Kelley says that the indictment was a form of retaliation.
As the newswire notes, several activists have extensively questioned whether local authorities could investigate the case fairly. No one from the jail where Bland was found hanged in what was later ruled a suicide, nor anyone from the sheriff's office, has been indicted in the case. This is despite the fact that the county acknowledged that Bland was not properly monitored by jailers or properly screened after she acknowledged her history of mental illness.
Most recently, another jailer testified that he falsified jail-log entries indicating that he’d checked on Bland in the hour before she was found dead.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.