Sandra Bland death: Autopsy report confirms earlier finding of suicide

Texas officials have released the autopsy report for a 28-year-old black woman found dead in a county jail three days after a confrontation with a white officer during a traffic stop that corroborates the earlier conclusion that Sandra Bland committed suicide by hanging on July 13.

11-page report released Friday corroborates results released Thursday by Texas officials

Sandra Bland's family members say she would not have taken her own life because she was looking forward to starting a new job. (Courtesy of Bland family/Associated Press)

Texas officials have released the autopsy report for a black woman found dead in a county jail three days after a confrontation with a white officer during a traffic stop.

The 11-page report released Friday corroborates findings detailed a day earlier by Waller County officials who said 28-year-old Sandra Bland committed suicide by hanging on July 13. Toxicology results are still pending.

The report by the Harris County medical examiner's office notes Bland used a slipknot to fashion a noose out of a plastic liner that was taken from a trash can.

Funeral services for Bland are scheduled for Saturday in suburban Chicago.

She was in Prairie View, about 80 kilometres northwest of Houston, for a job interview when she was stopped July 10 for failing to signal a lane change. Dashboard-camera video that emerged after Bland's death shows her exchange with a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper escalated to the point where she was handcuffed and thrown to the ground.

She was arrested on a charge of assault of a public servant, accused of kicking the officer, and taken to the Waller County jail in Hempstead, about 100 kilometres northwest of Houston. She was found dead in her cell July 13.

Her family has criticized the stop and her incarceration, saying that she was looking forward to a new job and wouldn't take her own life.

Here's what is known about the case so far:

What does the dashcam video of arrest show?

The video shows a routine traffic stop that became confrontational when the officer asks Bland to put out a cigarette. She asks why, and the trooper then orders her out of the car. She tells him she doesn't have to step out, and he continues to yell at her. At one point, he pulls a stun gun and says, "I will light you up." After she steps out of the vehicle, the trooper orders her to the side of the road, where the confrontation continues off-camera but is still audible. The officer says in an arrest affidavit that she swung her elbows at him and kicked his shin after being handcuffed.

Why did Bland spend 3 nights in jail?

Bland didn't get before a judge until the day after her arrest, and her bond was set at $5,000. She needed to post about $500 of that to be released. In a phone call that afternoon, Bland's sister Shante Needham said she would work on getting her out. Family attorney Cannon Lambert says they were still working on posting bail Monday when they learned of Bland's death.

What happened the morning she was found dead?

No cameras were in the jail cell where Bland was found, but a camera monitoring the hall outside her cell shows no one entering or leaving it between the last time she spoke with deputies — via an intercom system — and when her body was discovered about an hour later. Following Bland's death, the jail was cited by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards for not observing inmates in person at least once every hour and not providing documents proving that jailers in the past year underwent training on interacting with potentially suicidal inmates.

What's known about her health and mental state?

A questionnaire filled out for Bland when she was booked into the jail states that she told officials she had tried to kill herself by taking pills after losing a baby. She also told them she was epileptic and was on medication for that condition, though her signature appears on another document that indicates she was not taking any medication.

Authorities said any contradictions in the jail documents were the result of Bland's inconsistent answers.

Her sister Sharon Cooper said that Bland had a miscarriage in May 2014 but that she was not aware of any suicide attempt afterward. And Cooper doesn't believe Bland could have attempted suicide without the family's knowledge.

Cooper said her sister suffered from seizures about a decade ago but hadn't had any in recent years and wasn't on medication.

Bland posted a video to her Facebook page in March saying she was suffering from "a little bit of depression as well as PTSD," or post-traumatic stress disorder. Cooper said that she thinks the post just indicates her sister wasn't having a "good day or a good couple of days."

Was Bland on suicide watch in jail?

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith says Bland hadn't been on suicide watch. He says guards determined she wasn't suicidal when she was booked into the county jail. Smith says he's forming a task force to review jail procedures, evaluate personnel and study other relevant issues.

What does her autopsy say?

Authorities say Bland's autopsy found no injuries that would suggest she was killed by someone else. Waller County prosecutor Warren Diepraam said that Bland had no defensive injuries on her hands that would typically indicate a struggle and that the marks around her neck were consistent with a suicide.

Preliminary autopsy results showed that Bland had marijuana in her system and about 30 cuts on her wrist that were probably self-inflicted in the weeks before her arrest. Diepraam says the drug-test results are worth noting because they could be "relevant to her state of mind," Diepraam said.

What's the status of the trooper who arrested her?

The Texas Department of Public Safety says the trooper violated traffic-stop procedures and the department's courtesy policy. Pending the outcome of the investigation, he's been assigned to administrative duties.

Who's investigating?

The Texas Rangers, an investigative arm of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the FBI are investigating. FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said the bureau is monitoring the investigation and once it's complete will review the evidence to determine if any federal laws were violated. The Waller County district attorney says the case is being examined as thoroughly as a murder investigation and will be turned over to a grand jury. DPS is also conducting an internal review of the traffic stop.