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Everything We Know About the Sandra Bland Case

Updated: Jul 23, 2015 6:07 PM ET | Originally published: Jul 21, 2015

A Texas prosecutor on Thursday cited as-yet-unreleased autopsy findings to confirm that Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old woman who was arrested in a routine traffic stop and later died in police custody, had died by her own hand.

Warren Diepraam, a Waller County prosecutor, told reporters Thursday that the only evidence "consistent with a violent struggle" were abrasions to her hands from handcuffs, likely sustained during her arrest.

A voice-mail message discovered Wednesday along with new information about the Illinois woman's mental state had earlier raised even more questions about the puzzling circumstances surrounding her death.

In a voice-mail message obtained by ABC News, Bland said she was at a "loss for words honestly at this whole process" following her arrest for failing to signal a lane change on July 10 in Prairie View, Texas. Forms filled out by Bland from jail were released by officials, in which she said she had attempted suicide within the last year but did not feel suicidal. She was not placed on suicide watch inside the jail.

Family members have disputed the initial claims that Sandra Bland, a black Chicago-area woman who had recently relocated to Texas, hanged herself in her cell, claiming that she showed no signs of suicidal intentions. Here, a quick guide to what is known about the case so far:

Why was Bland arrested?
On July 10, the civil rights advocate originally from Naperville, Ill., was pulled over in Prairie View, Texas, for not signaling a lane change. The Texas Department of Public Safety says Bland was “argumentative and uncooperative” during the stop. A Texas trooper claimed that she had swung her elbows and kicked him in the shins. She was ordered out of the car, arrested, and charged with assaulting a public servant. In a video taken by a bystander, Bland can be heard saying that officers “slammed her head into the ground.”

In a news conference held Tuesday, Texas State Senator Royce West said that Bland "did not deserve to be put in custody."

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What does the police dashcam video show?
On Tuesday, authorities released a 52-minute recording taken from a patrol car showing an argument and physical confrontation between Bland and Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, who asked Bland to put out her cigarette but refused. According to the video, Encinia appears to threaten to use his Taser on Bland for being uncooperative, saying "I will light you up."

The original version of the video appeared to have some continuity issues, suggesting that it may have been edited before it was released. The Texas Department of Public Safety denied it had been intentionally re-edited, but released a second, complete version within hours with no material changes.

Does this video clear up any of the circumstances surrounding her death?
No. After her arrest, Bland was taken to the Waller County Sheriff's Office jail and held for three days. Around 9 a.m. on July 13, she was found dead in her cell.

What do the police say happened?
Officials say Bland hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag, and security camera video released Monday appears to back up their account; the footage shows paramedics rushing to the hallway outside Bland's jail cell but seems to show no activity outside the cell in the 90 minutes before. A Waller County prosecutor, citing preliminary autopsy results, said her death was suicide by hanging.

"It has not been determined that there have been any criminal activities or any criminal charges by any party at this time," Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said in a press conference Thursday.

What does Bland's family say?
That police may have been involved in her death, and that Bland had not been in a suicidal frame of mind. Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis says that the investigation, which is being led by the Texas Rangers and the FBI, is being treated as if it were a murder case. “Ms. Bland’s family does make valid points,” Mathis said in a news conference Monday, according to the Washington Post. “She did have a lot of things going on in her life for good.”

A lawyer for Bland's family says there is "no evidence" that Bland previously attempted suicide. Her sister, Sharon Cooper, confirmed Thursday to ABC News that Bland had a miscarriage in May 2014 but had not been treated for or diagnosed with depression.

"I think everybody has lows and highs and I think that, you know, she was having maybe a bad day that day," Cooper told ABC News, referring to the day of her arrest.

Bland had recently moved to Texas for a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. However, video has surfaced of Bland claiming to suffer from depression. She also posted videos speaking out against police brutality.

What has happened to the arresting officer?
Encinia, the state trooper, has been removed from his patrol and placed on desk duty. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a criminal investigation into Encinia's actions had been opened by Mathis, the Texas district attorney.

What has the autopsy shown?
In a news conference Thursday, Diepraam said that preliminary autopsy results found that Bland's body did not show any defensive injuries, which would have been signs of foul play. Officials say there were consistent markings around her neck but no damage to her trachea or esophagus, which also could indicate a homicide. Diepraam also confirmed that marijuana was found in Bland's system.

Trayvon Martin
Trayvon MartinMartin Family/AP

Trayvon Martin

Feb. 26, 2012 Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman fatally shoots unarmed 17-yearold Trayvon Martin after an altercation in a Sanford, Fla., subdivision. The incident sparked a national conversation about race and prompted President Obama to say that were he to have a son, “he’d look like Trayvon.” Zimmerman, who argued that he acted in self-defense, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in July 2013.

Ernest Satterwhite

Feb. 9, 2014 Ernest Satterwhite, 68, is shot and killed in his driveway by a white public-safety officer in North Augusta, S.C., following a slow-speed car chase. Justin Craven fired multiple rounds through the driver-side door of the vehicle. The officer alleges that Satterwhite reached for his weapon; Satterwhite’s family disputes the allegation. Craven was charged with a felony for discharging his gun into an occupied vehicle on April 7, the same day Michael Slager was charged with murdering Walter Scott. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

An undated photo of Dontre Hamilton, provided by Dameion Perkins.
An undated photo of Dontre Hamilton, provided by Dameion Perkins. AP

Dontre Hamilton

April 30, 2014 Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney fatally shoots Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed 31-year-old African American with a history of mental illness, in a downtown park. Manney alleged that Hamilton, who appeared to be homeless, attempted to grab his baton during a pat down. Manney says he shot Hamilton 14 times in self-defense. Manney was fired in October but was not charged in the shooting.

Eric Garner
Eric Garner, right, poses with his children during a family outing.National Action Network/AP

Eric Garner

July 17, 2014 Eric Garner, 43, dies after being wrestled to the ground as New York City police attempted to arrest him for selling illegal cigarettes. In a cell-phone video recorded by a bystander, Garner can be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” The phrase was soon adopted as a rallying cry by protesters. On Dec. 3, a grand jury decided not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death.

Mothers who have lost sons due to police action, including Tressa Sherrod (R), mother of 22-year-old John Crawford III, attend a press conference calling for police accountability and reform on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 10, 2014.
Mothers who have lost sons due to police action, including Tressa Sherrod (R), mother of 22-year-old John Crawford III, attend a press conference calling for police accountability and reform on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 10, 2014.Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

John Crawford III

Aug. 5, 2014 John Crawford III, 22, is shot inside a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, after picking up an air rifle from the shelf. While police say they repeatedly asked Crawford, who was black, to drop the gun, surveillance video shows that police shot the man soon after approaching him.

Demonstrators autograph a drawing of Michael Brown during a protest against the fatal police shooting, in Atlanta on Aug. 18, 2014.
Demonstrators autograph a drawing of Michael Brown during a protest against the fatal police shooting, in Atlanta on Aug. 18, 2014.David Goldman—AP

Michael Brown

Aug. 9, 2014 Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer, fatally shoots unarmed 18-yearold Michael Brown, setting off months of unrest in the St. Louis area. Protests erupted nationwide in November, when Wilson was not indicted in Brown’s death. But the shooting prompted a Justice Department investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. In March, after the scathing report found instances of overt racism among officers and a pattern of arrests targeting black residents, Ferguson’s police chief and city manager resigned.

Levar Jones

Sept. 4, 2014 Levar Jones, 35, is shot multiple times by 31-year-old Sean Groubert, a white South Carolina state trooper, seconds after being stopped for a seat-belt violation, all of which was caught on the officer’s dash cam. Jones, who was black and unarmed, survived and can be heard on a video asking, “Why did you shoot me?” Groubert was later fired and charged with assault and battery, which carries a sentence of 20 years in prison. A verdict is expected later this year.

Demonstrators protest the fatal police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice block Public Square in Cleveland on Nov. 25, 2014.
Demonstrators protest over the shooting death of Tamir Rice in Public Square in Cleveland on Nov. 25, 2014.Tony Dejak—AP

Tamir Rice

Nov. 22, 2014 Tamir Rice, 12, is fatally shot and killed in a Cleveland park after police responded to a 911 call reporting a person with a gun. The caller warned that the gun may have been fake, but the officers say they didn’t know that. Officer Timothy Loehmann shot Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene. Rice’s gun turned out to have been a toy. A group of political and religious leaders have called for criminal charges to be brought against the officers involved, and a grand jury plans to hear evidence in the case.

The daughter of Rumain Brisbon (L) begins crying as she kneels in prayer at a vigil for her father who was fatally shot by police, in Phoenix, Ariz. on Dec. 8, 2014.
The daughter of Rumain Brisbon (L) begins crying as she kneels in prayer at a vigil for her father who was fatally shot by police, in Phoenix, Ariz. on Dec. 8, 2014.Deanna Dent—Reuters

Rumain Brisbon

Dec. 2, 2014 Rumain Brisbon, 34, is shot and killed by a Phoenix police officer following a drug-related traffic stop in which Brisbon, who was black, fled, refused arrest and appeared to be reaching for a weapon. Brisbon was shot by Mark Rine, a 30-year-old white officer. The incident set off several demonstrations in downtown Phoenix. On April 1, a Maricopa County attorney announced that criminal charges would not be brought against Rine.

People pay their respects at an ever-growing makeshift memorial where a homeless man known as "Africa" who was shot by police, in Los Angeles on March 3, 2015.
People pay their respects at an ever-growing makeshift memorial where a homeless man known as "Africa" who was shot by police, in Los Angeles on March 3, 2015.Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images

Charly "Africa" Leundeu Keunang

March 1, 2015 Los Angeles police officers shoot and kill a black homeless man named Charly “Africa” Leundeu Keunang, following a confrontation in the city’s Skid Row, an area with a heavy concentration of homeless people. Officers said the man attempted to take one of their guns.

Xiaxong Carter, 10, daughter of Naeschylus Vinzant, wipes away a tear while she holds onto her mother, Laneisha Butler during a protest against the fatal police shooting of her father, in Aurora, Colo. on March 11, 2015.
Xiaxong Carter, 10, daughter of Naeschylus Vinzant, wipes away a tear while she holds onto her mother, Laneisha Butler during a protest against the fatal police shooting of her father, in Aurora, Colo. on March 11, 2015.Brent Lewis—Denver Post/Getty Images

Naeschylus Vinzant

March 6, 2015 Naeschylus Vinzant, a 37-yearold unarmed black man, is shot in the chest and killed by Paul Jerothe, a police officer in Aurora, Colo. At the time of the shooting, Vinzant was violating his parole and had removed his ankle bracelet. He also had a violent criminal history but was unarmed as officers tried to arrest him. Jerothe, a SWAT team medic officer, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Demonstrators prepare to march in protest against the fatal police shooting of Tony Robinson in Madison, Wis. on March 11, 2015.
Demonstrators prepare to march in protest against the fatal police shooting of Tony Robinson in Madison, Wis. on March 11, 2015.Michael P. King—AP

Tony Robinson

March 6, 2015 Tony Robinson, a 19-year-old biracial man, is shot by a white Madison, Wis., police officer after Robinson was allegedly jumping in and out of traffic. Matt Kenny, a 45-year-old officer who was exonerated in a 2007 shooting of an African-American man, got into an altercation with Robinson when he entered an apartment in which Robinson was reportedly acting aggressively. Kenny, who says he was attacked by Robinson, was placed on administrative leave with pay pending the results of an investigation.

Protesters carry a photo of Anthony Hill while marching through the street demonstrating Hill's shooting death by a police officer in Decatur, Ga. on March 11, 2015.
Protesters carry a photo of Anthony Hill while marching through the street demonstrating Hill's shooting death by a police officer in Decatur, Ga. on March 11, 2015.David Goldman—AP

Anthony Hill

March 9, 2015 Anthony Hill, a black 27-yearold Air Force veteran, is shot and killed in Chamblee, Ga., by Robert Olsen, a white DeKalb County Police Department officer. Hill was naked and unarmed at the time of the incident and was apparently knocking on multiple apartment doors inside a housing complex. Olsen has been placed on leave. An investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is currently under way.

People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall in North Charleston, S.C. on April 8, 2015.
People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall in North Charleston, S.C. on April 8, 2015.Richard Ellis—Getty Images

Walter Scott

April 4, 2015 Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, is shot and killed as he’s apparently fleeing North Charleston officer Michael Slager, 33. Slager, who is white, alleges that Scott reached for his Taser. A video recorded by a bystander appears to show Scott running away from the officer as he’s shot in the back eight times.

Read next: Sandra Bland’s Friend Haunted by Missed Voicemail

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