US & Canada

Sandra Bland death: Texas officials deny editing arrest video

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Media captionDashcam footage shows Sandra Bland and police arguing

US officials have denied editing Texas police dashcam footage showing the arrest of an African-American woman who died three days later in custody.

Footage of the 10 July arrest shows Sandra Bland's car being pulled over for failing to signal and then an ensuing confrontation with the officer.

There were several jumps in the 52-minute film, which was watched more than one million times on YouTube.

Officials later removed the video and posted a version without the glitches.

The coroner said the 28-year-old hanged herself in her cell but her family has demanded an independent post-mortem examination.

State officials and the FBI are both investigating her death.

In the video, released by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Brian Encinia, a white police officer, is seen issuing a ticket and then asking Bland to stub out her cigarette, which she refuses.

When she refuses to step out of the car, he tries unsuccessfully to pull her out. He then appears to threaten her with a Taser and says the words: "I will light you up."

She gets out of the car and they move out of vision, but the audio suggests the confrontation becomes physical before more officers arrive.

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Media captionWhat we know so far about Sandra Bland's death

Several breaks in the original footage were highlighted on social media shortly after the film was released with many using them to question the entire film's authenticity.

In a statement released on Wednesday, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the video "has not been edited".

"Some of the video... was affected in the upload and is being addressed. We are working to repost the dashcam video," he added.

Bland's death sparks demand for answers

Video inconsistencies

  • 25:01 - A man walks away from a pick-up truck and out of shot, before reappearing at the door of the vehicle a few seconds later
  • 32:37 - A white car comes into shot then disappears before reappearing a couple of seconds later. The audio doesn't appear to break during this time, with the officer heard discussing the incident
  • 33:04 - The same footage of the white car is looped, again with no noticeable break in the audio

Officer Encinia, who has been on the force for just over a year, said he was kicked during the arrest. He has been put on administrative leave.

Texas DPS director Steven McCraw said his officers have "an obligation to exhibit professionalism and be courteous" but that "wasn't the case in this situation".

'Heavily disproportionate'

Prof Lawrence Sherman, director of the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University, said the video clearly shows the officer is "out of control".

He told the BBC that the response was "heavily disproportionate to the seriousness of the offence" and that he believed "a suit against [Mr Encinia] for illegal arrest would be very successful".

The debate about authenticity of the arrest video was a sign of the distrust towards police in the US, Mr Sherman added.

Authorities also released surveillance video from the jail showing officers responding to Bland's death but it does not show the cell.

Jail Sheriff Glen Smith said his staff checked on Bland less than an hour before she was found dead.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Surveillance video released from the jail shows officers responding to Bland's death
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Bland had just started a new job in Texas

In March, Bland said she was suffering from "a little bit of depression" and post-traumatic stress disorder in a video posted on her Facebook page.

But family and friends say she was in good spirits in recent months and had just started a new job. She was also said to be in good health when she arrived at the jail.

'Easily avoided'

Speaking on Wednesday, the family's lawyer said the video showed that Bland's death "could have easily been avoided".

He said the family wanted investigators to get to the bottom of what happened, adding: "Sandy [Bland] was a social activist. Social activists don't take her own life."

Her death is one of several under scrutiny in the US in which a black person has died while in police custody.

Other high-profile cases, since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson last summer, have sparked protests and sometimes unrest.

On Tuesday prosecutors in Cincinnati, Ohio, said they were probing the fatal shooting of a black motorist by a white police officer who had stopped him over a missing licence plate.

Samuel Dubose apparently refused to co-operate with Officer Ray Tensing, leading to a struggle.

Dubose, 43, was then shot in the head and pronounced dead at the scene.

The police officer has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.

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