A west suburban Chicago woman who was found dead in a Texas jail cell earlier this week called her sister from jail over the weekend sounding “aggravated” and “in pain,” her family said.
“She was very aggravated,” said Shante Needham, the oldest sister of Sandra Bland. “She seemed to be in pain. She said she really felt that her arm had been fractured.”
Needham said she was planning to post bond for her sister, which was set at about $500.
“She called me because she knew that I would get the job done,” Needham said said through tears Thursday. “She knew that by calling me I would get her out.”
Bland, the youngest of five sisters from suburban Naperville, was found dead in her jail cell Monday at the Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas. Her death has been ruled a suicide by what police called “self-inflicted asphyxiation.”
“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.
Bland was in jail following a charge for assaulting a peace officer, after an altercation during a routine traffic stop.
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 a new job at a local college this week.
“Based on the Sandy that I knew, that’s unfathomable to me,” said her sister Sharon Cooper, who has been acting as the family’s spokesperson. “That’s the word that keeps ringing true for me. That’s very challenging to believe based on the Sandy that I, we and everyone that you have seen an outpouring of love from who knew her, truly knew her, truly knew the depths of her, the core of her, that’s unfathomable right now.”
The family said they plan to travel to Texas this week to seek answers from investigators, but urged calm as anger rises over Bland’s death.
Video has since surfaced purporting to show Bland’s arrest. In the video, an officer is seen kneeling on Bland. Bland can be heard in the video saying “you slammed my head in the ground.”
“We know that people are angry,” said the family’s lawyer Cannon Lambert Sr. “What we want to make sure is that one, the investigation has an opportunity to take shape. Two, that the family is given an opportunity to understand what happened. Three, with respect to the life that Sandy lived, she’s not politicized. We don’t understand this, it doesn’t make sense and because it doesn’t make sense we need to make certain that [the family] can get to a place where it does make sense.”
Waller County officials say Bland had a court appearance Saturday, where her bond was set at $5,000.
The sheriff’s office said in the statement that “any loss of life is a tragic incident.”