Julia Craven -Huff Post Black Voices
WASHINGTON — Three days after being arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer during a traffic stop, Sandra Bland was found hanged in a Hempstead, Texas, jail cell. Public reaction to her death, which officials called a suicide, was swift — protesters took to the streets and demanded to know how, and why, it could have happened.
“I suspect there is a cover-up here,” Opal Tometi, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, told Al Jazeera. “There doesn’t seem to be clear evidence that points to any reason why she would do that to herself.”
The case will be investigated thoroughly, said Elton Mathis, the district attorney for Waller County, where Hempstead is located.
“This investigation is still being treated just as it would be a murder investigation,” he said, adding that the case will likely be turned over to a grand jury in August.
What Mathis didn’t do, however, is address why the community is concerned about the details surrounding Bland’s death. It’s common for officials to dodge concerns surrounding racially sensitive cases — and Waller County, like most Southern counties, has a complicated history with race.
“It’s nothing that’s vocalized … and it’s not expressed, but there’s still a lot of racism,” Sandy Buller, a Waller County resident, told The Huffington Post. “Especially in people who are 60 years old and older.”
Glenn Smith was suspended — and then fired — from his post as sheriff of Hempstead in 2007 following documented allegations of racial discrimination. Two years later, he became the sheriff of Waller County, a title he still holds.
But what else is there to know about this part of Texas? Here are a few things you should keep in mind as the investigation into Bland’s death moves forward:
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