Sandra Bland arrest recalled; loved ones question Waller County suicide ruling

Miya Shay Image
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Witness recalls Sandra Bland arrest, family doubt suicide
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A witness recalls the arrest of Sandra Bland in Waller County as family and friends question the suicide ruling in her death

HEMPSTEAD, TX (KTRK) -- A grainy cell phone video posted on YouTube shows the moment last Friday afternoon, when Sandra Bland was arrested by a Texas state trooper. It happened just outside of her Alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. On the video, you can hear her voice, clearly agitated.

On that Friday, Renee McKnight heard it, too. She was cutting hair at the barber shop across the street. Upon hearing the commotion, she went outside, and saw the trooper arrest a very upset Bland.

"She was out there fussing and cussing," recalls McKnight. "She was the one doing all the fussing and cussing. And as far as what he (the trooper) was saying? I couldn't tell because he wasn't talking as loud as she was."

McKnight says the officers on scene acted properly, as far as she could see. It's less clear what happened in the days following the arrest. We know that Bland spent the weekend in the Waller County Jail, and was last seen alive by Waller County jailers around 7 a.m. However, shortly after nine, Justice of the Peace Charles Karisch got a call. He was needed at the jail to conduct a death inquisition.

Karish said, "I looked at the body, asked if EMS had been there and it was a flat-line. I pronounced her dead. I did see a dark mark somewhere around the neck."

Judge Karisch says it looked to him like Bland committed suicide. And today, the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office also ruled her death a suicide. Initial findings suggest a plastic bag was used.

"I think I saw a plastic bag hanging on something," said Judge Karisch. "You believe that's what she used to kill herself?" we asked. "That's what I believe absolutely."

But Bland's friends remain doubtful. Why would a young woman who just moved from Chicago to Texas to start a new life kill herself? Former classmate John Kelly says he's angry. "It's kind of hard for me to imagine someone, who moved back from home all the way to Texas and about to start a new job at the alma mater and then be dead," he said. "It's hard to understand."