TIME Crime

Everything We Know About the Sandra Bland Case

Dashcam video shows confrontation with officer

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.”

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.

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

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TIME Crime

U.S. Cities See a Wave of Homicides

Violence Baltimore police
Karl Merton—Baltimore Sun/Getty Images Madison Street is blocked by police due to a barricade situation on May 20, 2015 in Baltimore.

Some cite local problems; others blame a "Ferguson effect"

For a number of cities around the country, the summer of 2015 is beginning to look like the end of the years-long decline in violent crime.

Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., among others, have all seen significant increases in their murder rates through the first half of 2015.

Homicides in St. Louis, for example, are up almost 60% from last year while robberies are up 40%. In Washington, D.C., 73 people have been killed so far this year, up from 62 last year, an 18% jump. In Milwaukee, murders have doubled since last year, while in nearby Chicago homicides have jumped almost 20%.

It’s unclear what’s driving the increase across multiple cities, as some cities are dealing with localized issues that may not apply when looking at the rising crime rates elsewhere. St. Louis police say that judges have been too lenient against criminals who have had histories of illegal gun possession and prosecutors haven’t aggressively pursued murder charges.

In Milwaukee, officials say they’re dealing with lax gun laws in the state, while Chicago officials blame criminals who are buying guns in states like Wisconsin and Indiana–two states with fewer firearm restrictions–and using them in criminal acts in the city.

Criminologists warn that the recent spikes could merely be an anomaly, a sort of reversion to the mean after years of declining crime rates. But there could be something else going on, what some officials have called a “Ferguson effect,” in which criminals who are angry over police-involved shootings like that of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer in August, have felt emboldened to commit increased acts of violence.

TIME Crime

Baltimore Mayor Replaces Police Commissioner

Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts listens as Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis speaks at a news conference, in Baltimore on April 30, 2015.
Patrick Semansky—AP Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts listens as Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis speaks at a news conference, in Baltimore on April 30, 2015.

The announcement follows calls for the top cop's resignation

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake replaced the city’s police commissioner Wednesday after officials called for his resignation in the wake of a report by the city’s police union criticizing his handling of riots in April.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the mayor’s office said it had replaced Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts with Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

The announcement came the same day that the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police released a report highly critical of Batts’s handling of unrest in the city following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old unarmed black man who died in police custody.

Batts was appointed police commissioner in September 2012 and previously served as chief of police in Oakland, Calif.

TIME Crime

Sheriffs Are Lonely Holdouts as Police Body Cameras Grow in Use

Deputies-Body Cameras
Nick Ut—AP A body camera is displayed at a news conference at the Sheriff's Headquarters in the Monterey Park section of Los Angeles on Sept. 22, 2014.

Some cite costs, others question their effectiveness

In Illinois, only four of the state’s 102 sheriffs have adopted body cameras. In Florida, just two of its 66 sheriffs have implemented them. And in other states across the country, many other sheriffs are hesitating before outfitting their officers with a technology that other departments and police chiefs are widely embracing.

As law enforcement agencies increasingly purchase body cameras as a way to build trust with the citizens they police—and provide transparency following several recent high-profile police-related deaths—sheriffs are emerging as one of the lone hold-outs. More than 7,000 of the 18,000 police departments around the U.S., which includes sheriffs’ departments, have adopted cameras, but only a fraction of the 3,000 sheriffs agencies have done so.

Vievu, a body camera manufacturer that counts more than 4,000 police agencies as clients, says only 100 of its customers are sheriffs, while TASER International, which includes 3,000 police department clients, says only about 360 are sheriffs. Cost is the main issue for many, especially for those who maintain a small force with a handful of officers. In states where public records are easily obtained, privacy issues are a concern. Some are waiting for their legislatures to decide on statewide body cam policies, while others have simply come out wholly opposed to their effectiveness.

Sheriffs generally serve a broader constituency than police chiefs, and often reside over rural areas that don’t have the same demographics or internal patterns of racial segregation as the big metropolitan areas that have tended to adopt cameras in lock-step. And because they’re directly elected, sheriffs don’t have to answer to a mayor or city council members, who may be feeling political pressure from the community to adopt cameras.

“They’re far more difficult to influence, far less pressured because they can always make an appeal directly to the public, whereas a police chief can’t do that,” says Dennis Kearney, a John Jay School of Criminal Justice professor. “They can resist better than a police chief can, and they’re going to feel probably a good deal more support and less criticism from the populations they serve because they’re elected.”

Sheriff Ricky Adam of Hancock County, Miss., says the costs associated with the cameras and the storage required to keep hours of video data are too much for his department, which includes just 50 deputies.

“We haven’t been able to buy a new patrol car going on four years,” Adam says. “I don’t know how I possibly have the money to spend on cameras.”

Many Illinois sheriffs are waiting to see whether Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign legislation to clarify the state’s dual-party law, which requires two-party consent for any recording. Greg Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Sheriffs Association, says his organization has been working with lawmakers to determine when a suspect can be recorded, whether it can be done without verbal consent, and whether the cameras can be turned on and off while officers are on patrol.

Similarly, sheriffs in Florida have had to grapple with the state’s public records laws, often considered the most transparent in the country. In May, the governor signed into law a measure that would exempt body camera footage from public records requests involving recordings inside someone’s home, in a hospital or at the location of a medical emergency.

A number of sheriffs have simply decided the cameras aren’t necessary. Late last year, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner in South Carolina wrote a public letter saying video would catch “good people on their worst days” and invade their privacy. It would also “unnecessarily expose investigative crime scene techniques,” he said, while citizens would be more reluctant to speak with deputies about problems if they’re on camera.

“Our sheriffs are very independent thinkers,” says John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs Association. “They don’t have to answer to any one individual.”

While TASER’s Smith says only a small part of their business is from sheriffs, he’s seen a recent uptick in interest thanks to what he believes is heightened focus on body cams and public pressure. And Thompson says a number of sheriffs he’s talked to are interested in adopting them, but many are waiting for more data to show their effectiveness.

“The majority who I’ve spoken to, they say it’s a good idea and they’re going to look into it,” Thompson says. “But we can’t get into this knee-jerk reaction that everybody has to have them. Not one shoe fits all.”

TIME Religion

The Fight Over Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments Monument Rages On

Oklahoma Capitol Ten Commandments
Sue Ogrocki—AP The Ten Commandments monument is pictured at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Oklahoma’'s Supreme Court says the monument must be removed because it indirectly benefits the Jewish and Christian faiths in violation of the state constitution.

State officials are calling for amendments to the state constitution

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a measure that would amend the state’s constitution after a court ruled that a Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol violated a ban concerning religious symbols on public property.

Republican leaders in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives said Wednesday they will work to pass a resolution that will let voters decide whether to repeal part of the state’s constitution that bans faith-based monuments from state grounds.

“The state Supreme Court misapplied an archaic and progressive section of our state Constitution and used that to apply a ruling that goes against the belief structure of the majority of Oklahomans,” Republican state Rep. Jon Echols said, according to The Oklahoman.

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a 6-foot Ten Commandments granite monument had to be removed, calling it “obviously religious in nature.”

State officials have said that the monument is historical and similar to one in Texas that was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.

“Quite simply, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong,” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt saud in a statement. “The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law.”

The controversial monument was installed in 2012 and funded by a Republican representative, who donated it to the state. The monument has been the subject of numerous debates over the separation of church and state in Oklahoma. Other religions, including the Satanic Temple, have argued that monuments symbolizing their faiths should be included as well. Last year, a man smashed his car into the monument, saying Satan made him do it.

TIME Courts

Supreme Court Ruling Won’t Stop Search for Execution Drugs

Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 file photo
Sue Ogrocki—AP The death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., shown on Oct. 9, 2014. The Supreme Court upheld the state's lethal injection protocol on June 29, 2015

States still have problems with controversial sedative

The search for more-effective lethal-injection drugs and execution methods won’t end following the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday upholding Oklahoma’s use of a controversial sedative, legal experts and death-penalty opponents say.

In a narrow 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found that Oklahoma’s use of midazolam did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, finding that a group of three Oklahoma death-row inmates failed to prove that the sedative leads to a significant risk of severe pain. The sedative has been a drug of last resort for many states under pressure to carry out lethal injections, and it will likely still carry the stigma of being involved in three executions widely considered botched.

“Right now, if somebody offered something other than midazolam, states would jump on it,” says Richard Dieter, senior program director at the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death-penalty organization. “They will definitely be looking around at other drugs, but the question is whether they’ll find anything.”

For years, states used barbiturates such as sodium thiopental and pentobarbital in lethal injections that would render an inmate unconscious before additional drugs were administered. But a nationwide drug shortage and pressure on overseas pharmaceutical companies supplying states with drugs led to a search for alternatives and combinations that had never been used before. Last year, the prolonged executions of Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Joseph Wood in Arizona all experienced serious problems involving proper sedation following the use of midazolam. Lockett’s execution was at the heart of the Supreme Court case, Glossip v. Gross.

Four states currently use midazolam, which has come under scrutiny from anesthesiologists for not being strong enough to knock out an inmate before other drugs that cause severe pain are injected.

“I think many states will still shy away from it,” Dieter says, referring to the sedative. “Most states don’t want to use it.”

There is some precedent for states tinkering with their protocols even after the Supreme Court upheld specific drug combinations. In 2008, the court ruled in Baze v. Rees that Kentucky’s three-drug protocol at the time was constitutional. But the court’s Justices also wrote that it was possible for a lethal-injection method to be deemed unconstitutional if there were alternatives available that were considered more humane. That pushed states to continue their search for other drugs and methods, something that could happen again following Monday’s ruling.

“Legally, the court has given its stamp of approval,” says Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor who studies capital punishment. “But as an ethical issue, there still appears to be problems in using it. All of its problems were discussed in the case. Many states just have to use it out of desperation.”

Following the ruling, Oklahoma announced that it would resume lethal injections, which were put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision. Florida has also lifted its stay of execution.

“I think this ruling will make states feel a little more comfortable moving forward with different drugs and different methods,” says Doug Berman, a law professor at the Ohio State University. “But states will still have their own challenges securing the drug, even though the constitutional issue is out of the way.”

Death-penalty opponents, however, found one thing to applaud on Monday. In a lengthy dissent written by Justice Stephen Breyer and joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Justices called into question the entire death-penalty system and whether it violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Breyer wrote that the delays involved in actually executing death-row inmates along with the arbitrariness of sentences over the past few decades may have led to the practice of capital punishment in the U.S. to be unconstitutional.

Thanks to lawsuits and difficulties states have had obtaining drugs, the U.S. last year executed the fewest inmates in almost two decades. Only 35 death row inmates were executed in 2014, compared with 98 in 1999, and at least one anti-death-penalty group looked to Monday’s decision as a potential harbinger.

“Justice Breyer asked, ‘How long are we going to have this conversation?’ By any measure, we’ve essentially abandoned the death penalty as a society,” says Diann Rust-Tierney, the executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, referring to the few executions that are now carried out in the U.S. “Some are clinging to this practice, but I’m convinced that the public won’t continue to support this.”

TIME Courts

Supreme Court Finds Oklahoma Lethal Injection Drug Constitutional

Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 file photo
Sue Ogrocki—AP The newly renovated death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., on Oct 9, 2014.

The sedative was used in a series of executions widely considered botched

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Monday that Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol is constitutional, finding that the use of the sedative midazolam in a three-drug cocktail does not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The central issue in the case was whether the drug can be used in executions without violating the Constitution. Oklahoma was one of small number of states that incorporated midazolam into a new lethal injection formula after drugs for the established protocol became harder to acquire. The case was brought by Richard Glossip, a longtime Oklahoma death row inmate, and two other prisoners.

The court found that the inmates failed to prove that midazolam given in large doses leads to a substantial risk of severe pain and did not identify an alternative method of execution that significantly reduces that risk, a standard established in Baze v. Rees, a 2008 case in which justices upheld Kentucky’s three-drug combination.

In the majority’s ruling, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that “because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. … Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”

Following the ruling, Oklahoma announced it would resume executions, which were on hold pending the court’s decision.

“This marks the eighth time a court has upheld as constitutional the lethal injection protocol used by Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a statement. “The Court’s ruling preserves the ability of the Department of Corrections to proceed with carrying out the punishment of death.”

In the last few years, the landscape has dramatically shifted as states have experimented with new drug combinations in response to dwindling supplies of drugs for established lethal protocols.

Last year, the executioners of three separate inmates—Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Joseph Wood in Arizona—appeared to experience serious problems in rendering those inmates unconscious. All three were given midazolam as part of the cocktail of drugs, raising questions about its effectiveness. A number of anesthesiologists have criticized states’ use of the drug, saying it’s not an appropriate anesthetic to use during an execution because it doesn’t induce a full state of unconsciousness, potentially leading to a painful execution that could be considered cruel and unusual.

In Lockett’s execution, which was at the heart of the case, the inmate apparently woke up during the procedure after officials had trouble securing an IV in Lockett’s arms. They eventually placed an IV in Lockett’s groin, where it become dislodged, allowing midazolam to leak into the inmate’s surrounding tissues instead of the bloodstream. The execution lasted almost 45 minutes.

Afterwards, Oklahoma suspended future executions and changed its lethal injection policies. Meanwhile, death row inmate Charles Warner and 20 other inmates sued the state over the practice. Warner was executed in January. Three other inmates, including Glossip, eventually brought the case before the Supreme Court.

In December, a district court concluded that midazolam rendered inmates “insensate to pain,” but the plaintiffs argued there was no evidence to support that and appealed.

The case ultimately turned on a very narrow question: whether midazolam sufficiently induced unconsciousness in which an inmate would not feel pain from two other drugs being administered, especially potassium chloride, which one inmate described during an execution as feeling as if he were on fire.

The prisoners were unable to convince the nine justices that midazolam was an inadequate drug for lethal injections or had a “ceiling effect” that rendered the drug ineffective in reducing pain at a certain point.

“Petitioners have not proved that any risk posed by midazolam is substantial when compared to known and available alternative methods of execution,” Alito wrote. “Second, they have failed to establish that the District Court committed clear error when it found that the use of midazolam will not result in severe pain and suffering.”

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, four states—Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma—have used the drug during executions while five other states have proposed administering it.

Two justices—Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg—deviated from ruling on the efficacy of midazolam and instead wrote that capital punishment itself may be unconstitutional. In a lengthy 46-page dissent, the justices said that the death penalty’s arbitrary application and the significant delays between sentencing and execution may violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and they called for the court to fully address its constitutionality.

TIME police

Baltimore Police Won’t Be Fully Equipped With Body Cameras Until 2019

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake holds a news conference on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 in Baltimore.  The mayor called on U.S. government investigators to look into whether this city's beleaguered police department uses a pattern of excessive force or discriminatory policing. Rawlings-Blake's request came a day after new Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited the city and pledged to improve the police department.  (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun via AP)  WASHINGTON EXAMINER OUT
Kim Hairston—AP A new report suggests that Baltimore won't fully equip its police officers with body cameras for four years. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, shown here at a May 6, 2015, news conference, says she wants them implemented by 2016.

But Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she wants them sooner

A body camera program for Baltimore police won’t be fully implemented for four years, it emerged Thursday, even as the city’s mayor pledges to equip officers with cameras by the end of 2016.

According to internal documents obtained by the Baltimore Sun, the city plans to fully equip the Baltimore Police Department with body-worn cameras by 2019, starting with a pilot program that includes 155 officers the first year and roughly an additional 2,500 the following three years.

But city council members on Thursday spoke out against the plan, saying the program needed to be finished sooner. “I don’t understand this haphazard approach of going so slow,” City Councilman Nick Mosby told the Sun. “Baltimore city needs body cameras. Four years is just too long.”

The mayor’s office, however, said that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is working to implement the cameras much sooner and wants to have officers fully equipped by 2016.

The city’s police department came under heavy scrutiny in March following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old unarmed black Baltimore resident who was severely injured in the back of a police van. The Baltimore Police Department has paid out millions of dollars in settlements involving police misconduct in recent years.

In 2014, the Baltimore City Council voted to equip the city’s 2,800 police officers with cameras, but Mayor Rawlings-Blake vetoed the measure, saying the issue needed further study and developed a task force to look into the effects and logistics of body-worn cameras.

 

TIME faith

Noah’s Ark Theme Park Gets a Helping Hand From the Amish

noahs ark encounter park kentucky
Ark Encounter

Construction underway despite funding issues

An embattled ministry building a replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky is getting a boost, thanks to the Amish.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Amish communities in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania are helping Answers in Genesis—a non-profit Christian ministry that advocates creationism—build Ark Encounter, the multi-million dollar theme park that the ministry says will include a full-size replica of the Biblical ark.

The project, first proposed in 2010, experienced a setback late last year when Kentucky officials denied $18 million in tax incentives to the group. The state’s tourism board said the project had “evolved from a tourism attraction to an extension of AiG’s ministry” and that state incentives would violate the separation between church and state.

State officials cited the group’s hiring requirements, which mandated that future employees give a “salvation statement” and believe that God created the world. AiG sued the state, accusing it of discriminating against the group based on its religious views.

Still, construction is reportedly underway on the 510-foot-long ark even without the tax incentives with the help of a number of Amish workers, who are working on the ark’s wooden structure. AiG says any state incentives will go to future expansions of the park. It plans to open Ark Encounter in the summer of 2016.

TIME Demography

U.S. Steps Closer to a Future Where Minorities Are the Majority

Census finds the country's minority population has risen to 37.9%

Minority births in the U.S. are far outpacing deaths as the white population remains all but stagnant, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday, driving the country closer to the point at which minorities outnumber whites.

The country’s minority population increased from 32.9% of U.S. residents in 2004 to 37.9% in 2014, according to the Census, and four states — Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas — along with Washington, D.C., are now majority-minority. Nevada, which has 48.5% minority population, is likely next.

Non-Hispanic deaths outpaced births in 2014 for a third year in a row, something University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson says has never happened before in the U.S.

“We expected to see non-Hispanic white natural decrease in the future, but it wasn’t expected to start for another decade or so,” Johnson says, adding that the recession and low fertility rates have contributed to the dip. “The white population is considerably older than any other part of the population. This means it has higher mortality. Fewer women are in their prime child-bearing years.”

The slowdown in white population increases is coupled with minority births that are outpacing deaths by three to one. An estimated 95% of the country’s population gain – a 2,360,000 increase – came from minorities last year, while whites made up almost 80% of deaths. However, the non-Hispanic white population did see a bump thanks to 155,000 immigrants, mostly from Europe. The population for whites grew by just 94,000.

“Ironically, non-Hispanic whites are now more dependent on immigration for population increase than any other group,” Johnson says.

Demographers predict that the U.S. will be majority-minority for the first time by the mid-2040s. Millennials, meanwhile, who number 83.1 million, have now surpassed Baby Boomers at 75.4 million and are the most diverse generation in history. But Census numbers show that the generation after them will be the first to be majority-minority. More than half of all Americans aged five years or younger are non-white.

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