Hundreds came out in a north Chicago suburb on Saturday to attend the funeral of Sandra Bland, the African American woman who was found dead in a Texas jail cell three days after she was stopped for a minor traffic violation.
Mourners lined up for over an hour outside the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in suburban Lisle to file past an open casket and to attend the services.
“This is not a moment of defeat, this is an hour of victory … We are not funeralizing a martyr or a victim, we are celebrating a hero,” said Reverend James Miller who officiated over the service.
Bland was arrested on July 10 after being overly combative with a Texas state trooper who originally pulled her over for failing to properly use her turn signal. The officer claimed that Bland assaulted him and he arrested her for that reason.
But three days later, on July 13, Bland was found hanging in her Waller County jail cell.
Texas authorities have insisted that Bland committed suicide in the cell, and a subsequent autopsy buttressed the determination, saying that her injuries were consistent with a suicide.
But community activists and Bland’s relatives see more insidious forces at work. Some are now saying that Bland may have been murdered by police and a conspiracy theory claiming that Bland was already dead when her mugshot was taken has made its way around the Internet.
One such conspiracy theory centered on a video of an officer dragging what looks to be a lifeless body of a woman out of a car. Many claimed it was video of Bland’s arrest, and it was posited that Bland was dead before she even left the vehicle. But it turns out the video was of an incident in Florida, not Texas, and the woman in that recording survived her arrest.
Regardless, some close to Bland also claim that there is something suspicious about the arrest. In fact, an associate minister at the very church where the funeral was held said that Bland wasn’t the sort to have committed suicide.
“This is someone who had over 50 selfies, healthy self-esteem,” said Rev. Theresa Dear, who has known Sandra Bland for years. “Someone who had two job offers. Someone who just talked to her family and knew that help and rescue was on the way. This is someone who knew the Lord, and was extremely close with her church family and her sisters, her biological family. None of that adds up to taking one’s life or suicide.”
Bland’s mother also insisted this weekend that her daughter “spoke” from the grave, telling her that she didn’t commit suicide.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org