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Family of Black Woman Found Dead in Texas Jail File Federal Lawsuit

  • Amanda Scott

Geneva Reed-Veal (C) mother of Sandra Bland, and her daughters Sharon Cooper, (L) and Sierra Cole are backed up by attorneys at a news conference, Aug. 4, 2015, in Houston, Texas.

Geneva Reed-Veal (C) mother of Sandra Bland, and her daughters Sharon Cooper, (L) and Sierra Cole are backed up by attorneys at a news conference, Aug. 4, 2015, in Houston, Texas.

The family of Sandra Bland, the woman found dead in a Texas jail cell last month, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the arresting officer and other officials in what they say is an effort to get information about the case.

The 28-year-old Bland was found dead in the cell hanging from an overhead partition with a plastic bag on July 13.

Authorities said Bland committed suicide. Her family has questioned that finding but on Tuesday acknowledged the possibility. Bland's family has said she was not despondent and was looking forward to starting a new job at Prairie View A&M University, from where she graduated.

Her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said the events that led to her daughter's death began with an unwarranted traffic stop. "The bottom line is she never should have been inside the jail cell. Period,'' she said.

Bland was pulled over by a Texas Department of Safety trooper on July 10 for failing to signal a lane change. After a confrontation that escalated into a shouting match, she was arrested for assault. Three days later she was found dead.

"There are inconsistencies that have been documented that concern us," said attorney Cannon Lambert during a news conference announcing the lawsuit.

"There are questions that we don't know that are being asked right now that concern us. To that end we are very much asking that the DOJ [U.S. Department of Justice] get involved in the situation. It is requiring a fresh set of eyes. An unbiased set of eyes."

The lawsuit names state trooper Brian Encinia, who pulled Bland over and also targets the Texas Department of Public Safety, Waller County Sheriff's Office and two jailers in the Hempstead prison where she was held. It seeks unspecified damages.

Bland’s death comes at a time when there is increased national scrutiny of police after a series of high-profile cases in which blacks have been killed by officers or died while in custody.

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