Sanders Releases Statement on Bland Decision

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a statement late Monday in response to a grand jury’s decision not to issue an indictment in connection to the death of a 28-year-old Black woman who died while in police custody.

Sandra Bland died shortly after being detained by a Waller County, Texas police officer in July. Her death sparked national protests against what many feel is the unfair treatment of Blacks and the hands of police.

On Monday, a grand jury decided that jailers and sheriff’s officials would not be indicted for their treatment of Bland.

In a statement published on Twitter, Sanders expressed certainty that Bland’s race played a role in her death.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman.”

Texas State Trooper Brian Encina arrested Bland on July 10 after being pulled over for an improper lane change. Dashcam footage of the incident shows Encina holding a gun up the Bland as he says, “I will light you up” when she refuses to leave her car.

She was found dead in a Waller County jail cell three days later.

Read more at Talking Points Memo.

Bland was arrested by Texas state trooper Brian Encina on July 10 after being stopped for an improper lane change. In dashcam video of the incident, Encina holds a stun gun up to Bland and warns “I will light you up” when she refuses to leave her car. Three days later, she was found dead in her cell at a Waller County jail, where she’d hung herself with a plastic garbage bag.

The AP reported that the grand jury will reconvene in January to decide whether to indict Encina, who has been on administrative duty since Bland’s death.

Bland’s arrest and hanging, which her family insisted was not a suicide, became a lightning rod for race relations this summer. All three Democratic presidential candidates—Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley—have made Bland’s death a clarion call for reforming a police system that they claim is racially biased and aggressively pursues minor offenses.

During the first presidential debate in Las Vegas in October, Sanders brought up Bland in response to the question of whether “black lives matter” or “all lives matter.”

“Black lives matter,” he responded. “The reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail.”