Friday, July 24, 2015

A Witness That "Really Couldn't See Anything" & Edited Video That Wasn't Edited

NYPD arrest protesters on 34th street in NYC (Photo Scott Heins)
"I’m still just at a loss for words, honestly, about this whole process. How this switching lanes with no signal turned into all of this, I don’t even know."

That's a quote from the transcript of a newly-released voice-mail that 28 year-old Sandra Bland left for a friend after being arrested and  booked for an illegal lane change in Hempsted, Texas back on July 10th.

Frankly, like many around the nation I'm still at a loss for words myself and the questions in this case outweigh the answers.

Despite statements from Waller County, Texas officials claiming autopsy results prove that Sandra Bland's death while in custody was a result of suicide, vigils, marches and protests like the one (pictured above) that took place in mid-town Manhattan last night reflect a deep skepticism of local Texas authorities' account of how an African-American woman pulled over for failure to signal a lane change ended up asphyxiated by a garbage bag tied around her neck.

State trooper Brian Encinia
The release of the dash cam video showing Texas state trooper Brian T. Encinia (pictured left), who previously worked for a dairy and as a fireman before becoming a state trooper in 2014, escalating a confrontation with Bland during a questionable traffic stop only adds doubt about the quick conclusions reached by Waller County officials.

Conclusions which of course absolve the police and blame Bland, her mental state and traces of marijuana found in her system for her own death.

During the video, Encinia can be heard and seen getting unnecessarily confrontational and aggressive with Bland after asking her to put out her cigarette; and that's before he pulls out a taser and threatens that "I will light you up" if she does not comply with his orders to exit her car.

Several sections of the dash cam video appear to have been clearly and intentionally edited, though local officials on Wednesday chalked that up to unspecified problems uploading the approximately 52-minute video to YouTube.

Officials later re-released yet another version of the video. Which is almost as sketchy as making easily detected edits to the original version then denying it had been edited.

Now another woman named Alexandria Pyle who had been jailed for unpaid parking tickets at the same time that Bland was being held has come forward to tell a local ABC affiliate station that she believes Bland committed suicide.

The problem with the opinion she gave during the interview is that Pyle is not an expert, nor was she sworn in to give testimony or cross-examined.

Cell where Sandra Bland was found dead on July 13th
Pyle wasn't even in the same cell with Bland.

During the interview she also admitted that the only way she could see or communicate with Bland was through a very small rectangular opening in the door of the cell; as she herself said, "So I really couldn't see anything."

So it's kind of interesting that she appears on television as a "witness" to a suicide she admits she didn't actually witness.

Waller County officials better hope Pyle's unpaid parking tickets didn't "magically disappear" - it certainly wouldn't surprise me if Waller County has it's own version of Ferguson, Missouri's Mary Ann Twitty.

Remember what her magic wand did to tickets issued to friends of municipal employees in Ferguson?

Personally, I join many others in remaining unswayed in the opinion that something wrong happened in that jail between the confrontation caught on dash cam and the time she was supposedly found on the morning of July 13th.

This is far from over though, and thus far it's clear that there a lot more questions than answers.

But the FBI is still investigating the incident and Sandra Bland's family still intends to conduct an independent autopsy of her body with a different medical examiner.

In the meantime protests are continuing in Hempstead, Houston and even New York City where  a large group of protesters made their way through mid-town Manhattan last evening and 14 people were eventually arrested by members of the NYPD for staging a peaceful sit-down at 34 street and 6th ave in Herald Square just next to Macy's and a block from Penn Station.

As 23 year-old Celeste Russell of Dallas, Texas told Gothamist reporter Scott Heins during the march last night in New York City: "It's heartbreaking. Because as a black body in this country, you're never allowed to be innocent until proven guilty." 

As the deaths of Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice and so many other members of The Counted at the hands of police officers attest, these days the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" are words that seem to apply selectively. 

Words that certainly didn't apply to many of the 648 The Counted has identified as having been killed by members of American law enforcement this year.

Time and evidence will tell if Sandra Bland gets added to that list.

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...

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1. FAITH: Believe in the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. Accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
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