Dash cam footage showing Sandra Bland’s arrest was edited

On July 10th, Sandra Bland, having recently moved to the Houston area from Illinois to start a new job, was pulled over for failing to signal a turn. As Officer Brian Encina was giving her her ticket, they entered into a tense exchange, leading the Encina to tell her to step out of her car. Having not done anything else wrong other than express her disagreement with the officer over giving her a ticket, Bland refused. Encina then forcibly dragged Bland from her car, handcuffed her, threw to the ground and arrested her.

Bland repeatedly asked Encina why she was being arrested. He repeatedly refused to give her an answer, instead at one point pointing his stun gun at her, yelling “I will light you up!” The official charge filed against Bland was assaulting a police officer.

Bland would die three days later police custody. The Waller County Sheriff’s department has said that Bland hung herself in her cell, an account that very few people believe. The FBI has opened an investigation into Bland’s death, and is treating it as it would a murder investigation.

Last night, blogger Ben Norton noticed that the video the Sheriff’s department uploaded to YouTube showing the dash cam video of Bland’s arrest (embedded above) has been edited in multiple places:

Screenshot from the first edited segment of the video, via Texas Department of Public Safety / YouTube

Screenshot from the first edited segment of the video, via Texas Department of Public Safety / YouTube

A man leaves the truck in the center of the frame at 25:05. For the next 15 seconds, he walks toward the right of the frame and leaves. At 25:19, he suddenly appears again, promptly disappears, then returns at 25:22. The same footage of him walking is subsequently repeated…

…At 32:37, a white car drives into the left side of the frame, then promptly disappears in the middle of the road. Seconds later, the same car drives back into the frame and subsequently turns left. This footage is later looped several times.

A different white car also drives into the left side of the frame and turns left from 32:49 to 32:59. The previous white car again briefly enters the frame at 33:04, and once more at 33:06, yet it suddenly disappears both times. When these cuts are made in the footage, the lights on top of the truck in the center of the frame also abruptly cut out.

At 33:08, the exact same footage from 32:37 is repeated, followed by the same second white car at 33:17…The same happens from 33:50-34:12.

The video appears to be edited to correspond to Officer Encina, as he goes over the story that he used to justify arresting Bland — a story that is hard to square with the footage in the arrest video. Bland, active in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, clearly knew her rights, clearly knew her arrest was unwarranted and clearly knew that any action that could be remotely interpreted as assaulting a police officer would be interpreted as such.

Those in the legal community who have chosen to weigh in agree:

It is unknown at this time who edited the dash cam video, but the fact that it was edited before being uploaded to YouTube casts serious doubt on the rest of the claims that the Sheriff’s department makes regarding the nature of her arrest and treatment while in police custody. The department is under the clear impression that someone did something wrong, making their continued insistence that Bland was both deserving of her arrest and entirely complicit in her own death hard for reasonable people to wrap their heads around.

I know everything’s supposed to be bigger in Texas, but no one told me about teleporting truck drivers and invisible cars.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Sandra Bland was held by the Walker County Sheriff’s department. She was held by the Waller County Sheriff’s Department.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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