Waller County, Texas prosecutor Warren Diepraam said Thursday that an autopsy report showed Sandra Bland’s death was a suicide, not a homicide, which supported findings from earlier, preliminary autopsy results.
Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, had been found dead in her jail cell July 13, after she was arrested during a minor traffic stop three days prior, an event which sparked outrage across the nation.
She had been found hanging from a plastic trash can liner in her cell. But, friends, family, and supporters of Bland said they hadn’t believed she was suicidal, and questioned the manner in which she died.
“There were no bite marks or other injuries on her face, on her lips, on her tongue, which would be consistent with a violent struggle,” Diepraam stated.
In addition, he said the uniform markings medical examiners found around Bland’s neck were consistent with those in a suicide.
“I have not seen any evidence that this is a homicide,” Diepraam stated.
In addition, he said Bland also had abrasions on her back and wrists, which could have happened during her arrest, and while she was handcuffed.
Diepraam said preliminary tests also showed Bland had marijuana in her system; however, additional test results were still pending.
Nonetheless, Diepraam said, although he felt comfortable with the medical examiner’s findings, prosecutors were still seeking information, and, at this point, would not rule out anything.
In addition to the autopsy findings, a state inspection released the same day found the jail violated policies by failing to check on Bland at least once every hour, as the law requires. The report, from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, also found that Waller County hadn’t provided proof that jail staff had two hours of annual training with “the local mental health authorities … in accordance with their approved Mental Disabilities/Suicide Prevention Plan.”
The state of Bland’s mental health has remained unclear, after one mental health form at the jail listed her answers to questions regarding whether she was depressed or had ever attempted to commit suicide as “yes,” and another listed her answers as “no.”
In addition, according to intake forms, Bland was also taking an antiseizure medication, called Keppra, for epilepsy. Food and Drug Administration warning labels for the drugs say possible side effects include depression, aggressive behavior, and thoughts of suicide. However, it’s not yet clear whether Bland had taken the drug while in police custody.
Bland’s friend LaVaughn Mosley, a college friend, said he had spoken to Bland while she was in jail, and Bland never suggested she was suicidal.
Mosley and Bland’s family Family have also said Bland’s traffic stop, for merely failing to use her turn signal, should never have escalated to an arrest.
“Here is a young black female who was on her way to being successful,” stated Mosley. “I don’t know what happened in that jailhouse, but obviously something went terribly wrong.”