Sandra Bland 

It’s been 10 days since Sandra Bland was found dead in her cell at a Waller County, Texas, jail, and still media—social and news alike—are searching for the answer as to what exactly happened to Bland.

Throughout the outright demands for answers, suspicions have been incredibly high, given the number of officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths that have occurred in the past year. Many individuals are outright accusing police of foul play, with speculations ranging from suspicion that Bland’s arrest video was edited to the suspicion that Bland may even have been deceased at the time of her mug shot.

Here’s a list of all the controversial or just flat-out confusing information that has come out of the tragic case of Sandra Bland:

1. Was Sandra Bland hostile?

That was the official reason given by officers for why a simple traffic stop, which should have ended in a ticket, instead ended with a trip to jail and, ultimately, death. Bland, officials said, became combative and assaulted a public servant.


However, video of the incident appears to show an irritated, but not combative, Bland. She responds to all of Police Officer Brian Encinia’s direct questions and then challenges him based on her rights once he asks her to put out her cigarette.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump joined the argument, admitting that he watched the footage a few times and thought that “[the officer] was terrible.”

“I thought he was so aggressive,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview Wednesday. “It was just a traffic signal, as I understand it. And, you know, who gets out of the car for a traffic signal? He just looked very aggressive.”


“I didn’t like his demeanor,” Trump added.

It appears that the officer escalates the situation after Bland refuses to put out her cigarette, by repeatedly insisting that she step out of the car, and when she refuses, Encinia threatens to “yank” her out of the car and then ultimately threatens to “light [her] up,” pointing his Taser at her, unless she exits the vehicle.

The officer announces that Bland is under arrest. When Bland asks what she is being arrested for, he gives her no response.


Bland continues to have her say, though seemingly not physically engaging the officer, instead pointing out things such as, “For a f—king failure to signal. My goodness. Y’all are interesting. Very interesting.”

As the encounter continues, Bland can be heard complaining that Encinia is “about to break [her] wrist,” while Encinia, joined by a female officer at this point, tells her to “stop resisting.” Bland can also be heard, further along in the audio, complaining that the officer slammed her head into the ground.

It is interesting to note that while the officer accused Bland of kicking him, that was not caught on camera because Bland is escorted to a position out of range of the dash cam. When asked about the kick, Encinia can be heard telling a paramedic, “She didn’t kick me too hard, but she still kicked me, though.”


2. Was the dash-camera video edited?

Full video of the traffic stop was supposedly released, and with that came the hope of answers as to exactly what happened the day Bland was arrested.

Except … the release of the video brought more suspicions, with many noting that the nearly hourlong footage had been edited. And these misgivings didn’t just come from social media conspiracy theorists. Famed Selma director Ava DuVernay—who, as she rightly pointed out, edits video for a living—agreed that the video had been cut.


Credible news source the Los Angeles Times also reported that the video seemed doctored, pinpointing several locations where objects, cars and people disappear and reappear, among other discrepancies. Police insist that the tape was untouched.

Of course, in the face of a potentially edited video of a supposedly “lawful traffic stop” comes the question “What are they hiding?”


3. Did Sandra Bland kill herself?

On Thursday a local prosecutor confirmed that preliminary autopsy results show suicide by hanging as the cause of Bland’s death. Prosecutor Warren Diepraam said that initial reports indicate that Bland did not have any injuries on her consistent with a struggle, other than those close to her hands, consistent with being handcuffed and struggling. 

However, Bland’s family is still insistent about wanting a second autopsy done on the body, which has since been returned to Chicago in preparation for a weekend funeral. 


Very few people, friends and family included, seem to be of the view that the bright 28-year-old, who was about to start a new life, suddenly ended her life. Authorities had initially reported that she died by “self-inflicted asphyxiation” using a trash bag.

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith told reporters that two jailers interviewed the young woman upon her arrest. Bland reportedly told one interviewer that she was not depressed, just upset about the arrest and confrontation. Both jailers said that Bland seemed fine when she was booked.


In documents filled out for Bland, it was indicated that she had attempted to take her own life after losing a baby. However, booking papers show that Bland did not appear to have suicidal thoughts upon her arrest, and she was not thought to be at risk.

One form indicates that she had thoughts of taking her own life within the past year, but another says she did not. In a March 1 “Sandy Speaks” video on Facebook, the type of which she was known to do, Bland claimed to suffer from “a little bit” of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nonetheless, the Waller County district attorney has given weight to the suspicions, saying, “There are too many questions that still need to be resolved.” District Attorney Elton Mathis announced that Bland’s death is being “treated like a murder investigation.”


“I want fingerprints run. I want … DNA tests run on the trash bag,” as well as “any other valid scientific testing that we have so we can say with certainty what happened in her cell,” Mathis said.

The family has also ordered an independent autopsy.

“We want to understand how it is that this kind of played out and what will end up ultimately being the cause of death,” family attorney Cannon Lambert said.


4. Was Sandra Bland already dead in her mug shot?

Perhaps one of the most chilling questions to come out of this already tragic death is the theory that Bland was already dead when she had her mug shot taken and that she was posed, lying on the floor, after she had already died.

This theory has caught wildfire on social media based on suspicions regarding the look in her eyes, the angle of her shoulders, the tightness of her jaw and the way her hair falls. Some have even questioned whether the mug shot was doctored.


Some have also asked why, in a booking photo, is Bland in the standard orange jumpsuit and not in her street clothes, as is typical.

There is also the theory that she was perhaps lying on the floor, given the apparent difference in the color of the wall (a white or cream of some sort) and the color of the floor (gray, much like the background of Bland’s picture).


The questions about Bland—her arrest and her death—won’t stop and can’t be stopped until answers are at hand. And one can only hope in the coming days that with autopsy reports and a (hopefully) thorough investigation, justice will be coming soon. Until then, the main question will continue to be this:


Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.