HOUSTON, Texas – Forty members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have signed a letter urging the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the conduct of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and officials at the Waller County jail in connection with the Sandra Bland case.
The letter (attached below) was written to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. It asks for “investigative action to address whether Ms. Bland’s death resulted from acts that are part of an unconstitutional pattern or practice of policing by the Texas Department of Public Safety, or from unconstitutional conditions and practices within the Waller County jail facility, or from some other criminal or civil rights violation.”
These forty members of the CBC write that they “are calling upon the Department of Justice to conduct a comprehensive investigation, pursuant to its statutory authority, of the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, and to take appropriate action necessary to vindicate the federal interest in protecting the civil rights of all Americans and to ensure that all persons receive equal justice under law.”
The CBC consists of 46 members.
Breitbart Texas has reported extensively about the Sandra Bland matter.
Bland was the black woman who killed herself in the Waller County jail three days after being arrested by a DPS trooper following a traffic stop. The trooper, Brian Encinia, was indicted by a Waller County grand jury in early January, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The Texas Department of Public Safety announced that Encinia would be fired. The announcement came immediately after the indictment.
In December, Breitbart Texas reported that the grand jury had declined to indict the Waller County Sheriff or his staff. Special prosecutor, Houston lawyer, Darrell W. Jordan, Jr., spoke with Breitbart Texas in December. He said the grand jury did exactly what he thought they would do. The special prosecutor pointed to the federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Bland family and said even the family is not alleging there was a homicide.
Breitbart Texas previously reported that Officer Encinia stopped Bland after she ran a stop sign in front of him and then changed lanes without signaling as his vehicle approached hers. He told her the reason for the stop was the improper lane change and said he was about to give her a warning ticket, according to the dashcam video released by the Texas DPS. The situation escalated after Bland refused to put out a cigarette per the officer’s instructions and the officer told Bland, holding a Taser, he was going to “light” her up. Bland’s death in the jail was ruled a suicide by a medical examiner.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, and CBC Chairman G. Butterfield from North Carolina, and Congresswoman Robin Kelly from Illinois, issued a statement after the letter was signed the forty members of the CBC.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee from Houston charged that the “failed responses of local officials to provide answers or take appropriate corrective action, demand the attention of the Justice Department.” She added, “We have an obligation to the American people to maintain transparency in our federal system and to respond appropriately when citizens raise questions.”
CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield called the conduct of “law enforcement officials” “gross misconduct.” He said, “There is no doubt that law enforcement’s deplorable treatment of Ms. Bland during her arrest and confinement directly contributed to her untimely death.”
Congresswoman Robin Kelly said, “The murky circumstances surrounding Sandra Bland’s arrest and subsequent death present many troubling questions that the Bland family and the broader community deserve answers to.”
The mother of Sandra Bland has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of herself and Bland’s estate, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The Texas Department of Public Safety, Brian Encinia, jail staff, Waller County, Texas, and others, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2