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Activist’s Death Behind Bars Must Be Probed as Murder, Prosecutor Says

© Facebook/Sandra BlandBlack Activist Found Dead in Jail Cell Following Traffic Arrest
Black Activist Found Dead in Jail Cell Following Traffic Arrest - Sputnik International
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While the death of activist Sandra Bland in police custody was initially ruled a suicide, a Texas prosecutor has vowed to investigate it as thoroughly as a murder would be, as there are still many unanswered questions.

Bland, 28, was found dead inside her cell at Waller County Jail in Texas on July 13.  Police claim the civil rights activist hanged herself with a trash bag, but family, friends and supporters adamantly believe that foul play was involved.

Questions Continue to Arise in Jailhouse Death of Sandra Bland - Sputnik International
Questions Continue to Arise in Jailhouse Death of Activist Sandra Bland

The activist, outspoken on issues of race and police brutality, had just moved to Texas for a new job when she was pulled over by State Trooper Brian Encinia for allegedly failing to use her turn signal when changing lanes.  She was reportedly pulled out of the vehicle when she refused to put out her cigarette, as she was only being issued a written warning.

A bystander recorded a portion of the arrest with his smartphone, and video shows Bland alleging that the officer had slammed her head into the ground. The officer has since been placed on administrative leave for violating traffic stop procedures.

The death is being investigated by the Texas Rangers and supervised by the FBI.

It's "much too early to make any kind of determination that this was a suicide or a murder because the investigations are not complete," Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told reporters on Monday.

Mathis also announced that he has asked for extensive scientific testing, including DNA and fingerprint testing.

"This investigation is still being treated just as it would be in a murder investigation," Mathis stated.  He also noted that the case will appear before a grand jury.

Police Captain Brian Cantrell, however, maintains that Bland’s death was a “tragic incident, not one of criminal intent or a criminal act.”  He stated that she was found with her feet touching the ground after using the plastic trash bag as a ligature.

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On Monday, a video was also released showing the hallway leading to the cell in which Bland was held.  It shows 90 minutes with no one in the hallway prior to the death, but does not show her cell, or even the door to the cell.

Two hours before her body was discovered, a guard checked on Bland, and she stated "I'm fine."

Approximately one hour before her death, Bland asked to make a telephone call and was told over an intercom that the phone was on a wall in the cell.

There is no record of her making the phone call.

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