Thursday, July 23, 2015
Records Show Bland Revealed Previous Suicide Attempt
Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
As she was being booked into the Waller County Jail following her arrest on July 10, Sandra Bland apparently told officers she had attempted suicide earlier this year, records released on Wednesday show.
According to the mental health questionnaire filled out by the Waller County Sheriff's office during her booking, a deputy marked "yes" to the question: "Have you ever attempted suicide?"
The deputy also wrote "Lost Baby" and "2015" in the boxes next to that answer.
However, on a computerized summary of her intake form, "No" appears in response to the question: "Attempted suicide?"
Requests to clarify the discrepancy were sent to the Waller County sheriff and district attorney's offices. There was no immediate response.
Bland also indicated to the jailers that she had suffered a loss with the death of a godmother, and that she had been diagnosed with epilepsy and was taking an anti-seizure medication.
However, she was not placed on monitoring as a suicide risk during her three days in in jail, according to the sheriff and district attorney's offices. Using a standardized grid of risk factors, jailers classified Bland as a "medium" risk of assault or escape.
County jails in Texas typically use a form provided by the state Commission on Jail Standards to assess an inmate's mental state, which includes the questions "Have you ever attempted suicide?" and "Have you experienced a recent loss?"
Bland's answers are the latest details to emerge about what happened after she was stopped by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper outside Prairie View A&M University for failing to use a turn signal when changing lanes on University Drive.
Late Tuesday, DPS released dashboard camera video of the stop, which showed in graphic detail Trooper Brian Encinia losing his temper, threatening to Taser Bland and ultimately arresting her after she refused to put out a cigarette and come out of her vehicle.
"Get out of the car, now!" Encinia is seen yelling. "I will light you up." Bland is combative during much of the encounter, demanding answers from Encinia, calling him names and disobeying his instructions.
Three days later, Bland was found hanged to death inside the Waller County Jail. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences and the autopsy report, which has not been released, was forwarded to Waller County authorities who plan to take Bland's case to a grand jury.
The Houston Chronicle in an interview with state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, first disclosed the suicide attempt earlier Wednesday. Turner said he heard about it during Tuesday's meeting of state lawmakers and Waller County officials in Prairie View.
The booking records were released on a day when the DPS reposted a version of the dashboard camera video after complaints from the public that the original version it released had been doctored.
Agency spokesman Tom Vinger said Wednesday in a statement that the video previously released, which appeared to skip at certain points, "has not been edited."
But the new version is three minutes shorter, and DPS did not respond to a question about why the length changed.
Vinger told The Texas Tribune earlier that uploading problems caused the irregularities.
"To eliminate any concerns as to the efficacy of the video, DPS previously requested the FBI examine the dash cam and jail video to ensure the integrity of the video," he wrote. "The entire video was uploaded to include the audio and video of the conversation the trooper had by telephone with his sergeant, which occurred after the arrest. Some of the video that occurred during this conversation was affected in the upload and is being addressed. "
Vinger added that the agency was providing a DVD of the video to the media upon request.
The death of Bland, who is black, has sparked outrage in Texas, the nation and worldwide for what many see as the latest case of white police harassment of a black citizen.
Also on Wednesday, nine days after Bland's death, Gov. Greg Abbott made his first public comments about the arrest and death.
“Our hearts and prayers remain with the Bland family for their tragic loss," Abbott's statement said. "The family deserves answers. The Texas Rangers, working in coordination with the FBI, will conduct a full and thorough investigation that will deliver those answers and work toward the ultimate goal of ensuring justice in this case."
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.