Friends and family are questioning the circumstances of the death of a suburban Chicago woman in a Texas jail, which is officially being investigated as a suicide.
The woman, 28-year-old Sandra Bland of suburban Villa Park, was a graduate of Willowbrook High School. She traveled last week from Chicago to Waller County, Texas, where she was scheduled to begin a new job at a local college. On Friday, she was charged with assaulting a peace officer, after an altercation during a routine traffic stop.
She was found hanged in her jail cell Monday morning in the Waller County Jail. The jail is located in Hempstead, Texas, about 50 miles from Houston.
Bland was a self-styled civil rights activist, known for Facebook videos she called “Sandy Speaks” featuring her observations on race in the United States.
“Based on the history of America, it is not good when it comes to black and white people,” she said in one recent post. “But I want to try and get past that.”
Friends and family have questioned the official version of Bland’s death, noting that she was due to start her new job this week.
“Sandy became very proactive in using social media to bring awareness to police brutality,” one wrote in an email to NBC 5. “Family and friends have no doubt that foul play was involved in this alleged suicide. She was a very outspoken individual who loved life, went to Church and loved her family.”
Waller County officials say Bland had a court appearance Saturday, where her bond was set at $5,000.
“We’re required to check them every hour, 24/7,” Sheriff R. Glenn Smith told NBC5 Investigates. “[On Monday] she was given breakfast and spoken to, at about 7 in the morning. At 8, she spoke to a supervisor on the intercom about making a phone call.”
Smith says the woman’s lifeless body was found just after 9 a.m.
“One of the female jailers went to the door to see if she wanted to go to the rec yard,” he said. “She hollered for help, they started CPR. And unfortunately, couldn’t revive her.”
The sheriff’s office said in a statement that the woman died from what appeared to be “self-inflicted asphyxiation”.
The matter has been turned over to the Texas Rangers, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Texas Attorney General, and the Waller County District Attorney’s Office, for formal investigation.
The sheriff’s office said in the statement that “any loss of life is a tragic incident.”