The family of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old African American woman who mysteriously died in police custody, has reached a $1.9 million settlement in a federal wrongful death suit with Texas authorities.
“This is monumental. This is not just about me,” Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, told BuzzFeed on Thursday. "After talking to moms across the country, this is what we’ve been looking for.”
On July 10, 2015, Bland was returning to her college alma mater to interview for a new job when she was pulled over by former Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia for failing to signal while changing lanes. During the traffic stop, Encinia said that Bland failed to comply with an order to put out a cigarette and subsequently refused to step out of the car. Dashboard camera video shows that Encinia escalated the situation when he threatened Bland with a Taser and tried to physically remove her from her car:
After being detained for three days at Waller County Jail, Bland was found hanging from a bathroom partition in her jail cell with a trash bag wrapped around her neck. Her death was ultimately ruled a suicide. Trooper Encinia was later indicted for perjury after allegedly falsifying the circumstances of Bland's arrest in an official report of the incident. He was placed on modified duty and plead not guilty to the perjury charge in May, according to KTRK-TV. Earlier this year, a former guard admitted to falsifying records stating that he had looked in on Bland an hour before her death was discovered. But by his own admission, he had never checked on her.
The grand jury decided to not charge anyone at the jail in Bland's death.
On Thursday, a family for the Bland family told KTRK-TV that the settlement was reached with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Waller County jail in Hempstead, Texas.
According to the agreement, the Department of Public Safety will pay $100,000 of the settlement, while the jail itself will pay $1.8 million. In addition to the compensation, the settlement includes significant changes to law enforcement practices, from an on-call nurse being present at the jail to electronic cell checks. According to Bland's family, the judge in the case hopes to pursue legislation that will ultimately fund jail improvements like automated electronic sensors for cell checks and enhanced training for jailers. Any future state legislation passed to benefit Waller County should also be named in memory of Sandra Bland.
“Those things, over and above the $1.9 million are historic," Cannon Lambert, an attorney for the family said.