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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Attorney General Lynch: Sandra Bland’s death highlights black Americans’ concerns about police

The Post's Wesley Lowery sits down with Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist with the University of Baltimore, to deconstruct some of the critical moments of Sandra Bland's arrest during a traffic stop in Texas. (Editor's note: This video contains graphic language.) (Jason Aldag, Nicki DeMarco and Wesley Lowery/The Washington Post)
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday that the in-custody death of Sandra Bland in Texas and the recently released dash-cam video of her arrest underscores long-held fears many black Americans have about interactions with police.
"It highlights the concern of many in the black community that a routine stop for many members of the black community is not handled with the same professionalism and courtesy that other people may get from the police," Lynch, the first African American woman to serve as attorney general, told ABC News' Pierre Thomas.
Bland's death, which authorities say was a suicide, came after she was arrested during a traffic stop and held in custody for three days. Video of the traffic stop, released last week, shows that a Texas trooper threatened Bland with a Taser when he ordered her out of her vehicle on July 10.
The 28-year old African American woman was stopped for failing to signal while changing lanes, but the stop turned confrontational when the officer, Brian Encinia, ordered her to put out her cigarette.
When Bland questioned why she had to put out her cigarette, Encinia ordered her out of the vehicle. When she refused to comply, the situation escalated.
Encinia opened the driver’s door and attempted to remove Bland from the vehicle.
“I’m going to yank you out of here,” he said as the two struggled in the car. “I’m going to drag you out of here.”
“Don’t touch me. I’m not under arrest,” Bland said.
“I will light you up!” Encinia said, while pointing the Taser at Bland.
Three days later, Bland was dead in her jail cell. Officials in Texas, who are investigating the death, have said that she hanged herself using a plastic trash bag that was in her cell.
"We have a situation where many minority communities for so long have felt that law enforcement was coming in essentially to enforce laws against them, not to protect them." Lynch said. "I do think that what has been a important part of the debate in Miss Bland's death has been the discussions that we've seen from community members and police leaders alike...about the importance of training and deescalating incidents."
The FBI is assisting local officials in their investigation. The Justice Department has yet to open any independent investigation.
Meanwhile, former Texas governor Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, on Sunday called for transparency in the investigation into Bland's death, noting that it is clear that the trooper involved did not follow protocol.
"Transparency is really important in this process. So that all the citizens of the state of Texas know that this has been appropriately investigated," Perry told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." "And if it's found that the individuals made errors, then that needs to be addressed and addressed in an appropriate way."
Appearing on Meet the Press, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that Bland's death is indicative of structural and systemic racism that must be addressed.
"We have to deal with this issue of institutional racism," Sanders said. "We have to rid this country of racism. What we saw in Charleston, South Carolina a few weeks ago, a guy motivated by hate groups who goes out and kills black people because they're black. Sandra Bland being yanked out of a car, dying three days later for what -- for minor traffic violation."

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