The family of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail cell in July three days after she was detained during a traffic stop, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court Tuesday, alleging her constitutional rights were violated.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Texas by Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, who is the executor of Bland's estate.
Among those listed as defendants are Trooper Brian Encinia, who first pulled Bland's car over for a minor traffic violation on July 10; the Texas Department of Public Safety, who employs Encinia; Waller County; and Elsa Magnus and Oscar Prudente, who work as screening officers at the Waller County Jail.
Bland was found dead in her jail cell on July 13. An official autopsy ruled her death a suicide by hanging, but her supporters claim she had no reason to self-harm.
The lawsuit alleges Encinia "intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly" committed an assault on Bland by threatening her with a taser and saying "I'll light you up" — comments that were captured on dashcam footage of the arrest later released by officials. It also alleges Encinia committed battery upon the 28-year-old by forcibly removing her from her car, wrestling her to the ground, slamming her head into the ground, and kneeling on her body.
The lawsuit also alleges jail staff were "willful, wanton, and reckless in failing to provide adequate monitoring of Sandra Bland to keep her safe and secure," and exhibited a "conscious disregard" for her safety. The family also alleges Bland was not given adequate medical care and attention when she was found hanging in her cell.
At a press conference Tuesday announcing the lawsuit, the family said that even if Bland committed suicide their lawsuit was warranted.
"She should not have been there in the first place," her sister Sharon Cooper said.
"We are three weeks out from Sandra's death, we are a week out from burying her, and we still don't know what happened to her," she said.
Reed-Veal, Bland's mother, was asked by a reporter what questions she hopes the lawsuit can answer. "What happened to my daughter?" she replied. "What happened to Sandy Bland?"
Read the lawsuit here:
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at email@example.com.
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