‘Sandra Bland, the most unlikely suicide candidate ever’

A visit to Waller County Jail raises more questions than answers.

Photo illustration by Lee Eric Smith.
As I traveled down new Interstate 290, my heart searched for the answers that I knew my mind would soon not be able to grasp. Deep in my heart I knew that once I arrived at the Waller County Jail – where Sandra Bland had been processed for improper lane change, resisting arrest and ultimately pronounced dead three days later – that something wouldn’t add up.

A visit to Waller County Jail raises more questions than answers.

I held off my emotions so that I might properly judge all that my eyes touched in this moment. I suspended reality in hopes of a commentary that would bring ease to America’s hurting African-American community, whose dreams of equal protection have been subject to alarmingly high incidences of assault at the hand of law enforcement agencies as of late.

I’m well aware that it has been documented that Sandra Bland committed suicide and hey, maybe she did. However, if she did, then there are a few things that still need explaining.

On the outside of this shoe box that they call a county jail are three separate sally port’s to which people placed into custody are brought. After a quick observance I noticed that only two of those entrances had security cameras. Not long after that I encountered Carie Cauley, an activist from a nearby city. She confirmed that Bland was indeed brought in through the back entrance. Yes, the one without a camera.

Listen to Cauley:

“Me and the people at my church were completely moved by the death of her. I’ve been here for seven days straight at this point and I intend on staying here until justice is done. I watched the YouTube video of her arrest and I don’t believe that she did anything wrong. People have tried to validate what was done to her because she raised her voice, but she was a lady and he irritated her. I feel like it escalated because of him yelling at her about a cigarette. I felt like he was just trying to find something.

“I also do not believe that she hung herself, and that’s why I’m here. I have never heard of anyone who had just got a new job that took their own life. The other day they showed us the type of trash bag in which they say she killed herself with and it looked too weak to be able to hold her. She was like six-feet tall. A few minutes after that we asked which way was she brought into the jail and they pointed to the back. So we went around there and saw that there was no cameras back there to record her arrival.”

I waited for my opportunity to visit and interview Sheriff R. Glen Smith. An officer on duty told me that he wasn’t in today and that I was also out of luck in wanting a copy of Bland’s mug shot and arrest report. The sheriff has to OK all of that kind of stuff.

I told the officer, who was also obviously the secretary for the day, that “Maam, I don’t mind paying for it and it’s public record, so why does he have to give an OK for you to push a printing button on a public record.”

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