As It Happens

Pastor questions if Sandra Bland's death in Texas police custody was a suicide

Rev. James Miller says Sandra Bland was "excited about her new beginning," and says family and friends are shocked at claims she took her own life.

Sandra Bland was on her way from the Chicago area to a new job as a student outreach worker at a Texas university. But the 28-year-old never made it. 

Last Friday, Bland was pulled over in Waller County, Texas, for a minor traffic violation. Then she was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer.

- Rev. James Miller

On Monday, she was found dead in her jail cell. Police say she killed herself. But friends and family don't believe authorities are telling the truth about how she died.

Rev. James Miller is a pastor at the church where Sandra Bland and her family worshipped. He tells As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch that Bland was "very confident and accomplished...she was just a very, very dynamic person." 

Rev. Miller says Bland didn't show any signs that she was contemplating suicide. "She was defiant and strong-willed. She was not depressed or sad."

He says Bland was an outspoken supporter of the "Black Lives Matter" movement. He questions whether police officers may have played a role in her death.

"She fell victim to the very thing she was fighting against." 

Authorities in Waller county say they discovered Sandra Bland in her cell on Monday morning, and officers performed CPR to try to revive her. They concluded that she died by "self inflicted asphyxiation."

Texas Rangers have been called in to investigate the death.