A police officer from Prairie View, Texas, has come forward with allegations against his superiors involving the arrest of Sandra Bland, a black woman found hanged in her jail cell following a traffic stop. The cop claims that incriminating details from his incident report were suppressed.
In conversation with The Huffington Post, officer Michael Kelley claims that an assistant district attorney threatened him when he expressed his desire to testify before a grand jury investigating Bland’s arrest and jailing, or to the Bland family attorney as part of their federal lawsuit against Waller County.
Last July 10, Bland, an Illinois native who had recently taken a job at her alma mater, the historically black Prairie View A&M University, was pulled over by state trooper Brian Encinia after allegedly failing to signal a lane change.
Dash cam footage from Encinia’s patrol car captured pieces of what escalated from a routine stop. Encinia evidently became angry when Bland refused to put out a cigarette, drawing his Taser and aiming it at her, shouting “I will light you up! Get out now!” Bland exited the vehicle, and she and Encinia disappeared from the frame. (The Texas Department of Public Safety, which released the footage, was the target of heavy criticism as the dash cam footage appeared to have been doctored; the department claimed inconsistencies were the result of technical errors.)
In the dash cam footage, Bland can be heard crying and screaming. Video taken by a bystander shows Bland pinned to the ground by Encinia and a female state trooper; Bland is heard saying that she can no longer hear after Encinia slammed her head into the pavement. Another witness told local news reporters that Encinia “tossed [Bland] to the ground, knee to the neck.”
Kelley arrived on the scene after Bland was handcuffed and placed in the back of Encinia’s patrol car; he says his initial report noted that Bland had “a large mark” on her head, possibly consistent with someone who had been kicked. (Bland reportedly complained of head pain shortly after her arrest.)
As Bland was in the back of the state trooper’s car, Kelley claims that he heard Encinia on the phone with his supervisor. He reportedly admitted that he didn’t know how he would charge Bland, but he promised to “come up with something.” This detail, like the mark on Bland’s head, was absent from Kelley’s official report, which the officer says was filed without his permission.