Jail death of US black woman ruled suicide

  • 25/07/2015
Medics leave with equipment on a stretcher at Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas (Reuters)
Medics leave with equipment on a stretcher at Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas (Reuters)

The controversial death of a black woman in a Texas jail has been ruled a suicide after an autopsy found no signs of foul play.

Sandra Bland, 28, was found hanged in her jail cell three days after being pulled over for failing to signal a lane change and getting into an argument with a state trooper.

Bland's family disputed an initial conclusion that Bland committed suicide, insisting she was happy about starting a new job and had no reason to kill herself.

The case has blown up as the United States grapples with heightened racial tensions after a series of high-profile incidents of African Americans being killed by police in disputed circumstances.

Prosecutors released graphic autopsy photos and painstakingly detailed the coroner's conclusions at a press conference on Thursday.

"We're never going to be able to convince everyone," said Warren Diepraam, assistant district attorney for Waller County.

However, he said the evidence from the autopsy is "consistent with a suicide" and "I have not seen any evidence to indicate this was a homicide".

A dash cam video of the July 10 arrest fuelled suspicions that Bland was mistreated.

It shows a state trooper getting angry after Bland refuses to put out her cigarette, then drawing his Taser and shouting "I'm going to light you up" after she refuses to get out of the car.

"I was not happy when I saw the video," Waller County district attorney Elton Mathis told reporters.

"That's a different story than what he did amounted to criminal violations."

Bland's shock is apparent in a voice mail message she left for a friend while waiting to be bailed out of jail on charges of assaulting an officer.

"I'm still just at a loss for words honestly at this whole process," she said on the message obtained by KTRK news.

"How did switching lanes with no signal turn into all of this, I don't even know."

Her family said she never should have been arrested in the first place.

"I simply feel like the officer was picking on her. Point-blank, period. I personally think that it's petty," Sharon Cooper told reporters, adding that she thinks he got angry because "his ego was bruised."