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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17 Responses to “Dash cam footage showing Sandra Bland’s arrest was edited”

  1. Don Chandler says:

    It really irks me that the police spokesman called her anything less than a “model person” during a “not model police action”. We’ve all met Dick behind a badge but Officer Encina was dangerously abusive. He had no sense of proportionality and yet he is carrying a gun and badge and brandishing a taser while yelling “I will light you up.” And it is just unacceptable that he was manhandling Sandra Bland. He should have waited for assistance to arrive because the situation wasn’t remotely dangerous. He was NOT at all a “model police officer”. He was an abusive person.

    Sometimes I want to defend these officers and say, why are Blacks running from police officers? But it’s pretty obvious, they don’t trust them. If Officer Encina isn’t dealt with appropriately, it will continue to undermine my respect for law enforcement. But I already have ZERO respect for their PR people.

  2. zerosumgame0005 says:

    can we start calling them what they really are? “Death cams” for cops…

  3. Butch1 says:

    Perhaps they should leave the judge to do the “judging.” Their job was to issue a ticket and not harass the driver into an arrest. (or was that the purpose?) These cops and sheriffs today appear to all have chips on their shoulders asking you to knock them off. They are ticking time-bombs waiting to explode and we do not need this.

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  5. BeccaM says:

    “Not a model person” = “Insufficiently obsequious, submissive, and/or expressing of gratitude for being pulled over for a totally bullshit reason solely so the cop can run an ID in a classic case of the crime of Driving While Black.”

    As for the bond situation, it’s worse than that. Bond was set at $5k, but surety is only 10% cash. Ms. Bland was arrested Friday afternoon. Why the hell she wasn’t released by the following day at the very latest and was still in jail on Monday morning is a complete mystery.

  6. BeccaM says:

    I feel certain someone will have.

  7. Don Chandler says:

    Wow, even motherjones video is gone. “Fair is foul and foul is fair.”

  8. Don Chandler says:

    They actually did edit it. I’ve watched a few of these videos and the one at MotherJones has the “You need to leave” comments. ABC and CNN don’t have that part and they are full of gaps. Clearly the Sheriffs Department want to show some of it but not all of it. I guess it’s PR TIME. One person said they released the original video without even looking at it. Now they are releasing their own PR version. And the Sheriff’s spokesman is referring to Sandra Bland as not being a “model person” in a not so “model traffic stop.” The spokesman calls her “combative”. They must live in a bubble down in Texas. She wasn’t combative even after being dragged out of the car. Scared, yes.

    I’d like to know why they kept her in jail over the weekend. Who was the judge? Why didn’t her lawyer pay the 5k in bonds? Right, it’s Texas. In Russia, people video all police encounters because of bribery and abuse. Looks like we are in the same place. Bad Cops. Bad Sheriff’s department. Bad PR. Bad State. No Need Texas.

  9. GrantS says:

    I agree. The police in Texas (and everywhere else apparently) are completely out of hand.

  10. GrantS says:

    The video is gone. I hope someone copied it.

  11. The_Fixer says:

    Yeah, her demeanor was not “angry”, which is how he characterized it, up until that point. The putting out the cigarette order was just done to make her “hop to it”. It was a spurious thing and as the traffic stop was coming to a close, totally unnecessary. She recognized this, which is why she was irritated.

    Yeah, bad cop, no donut.

  12. Don Chandler says:

    I thought she was actually well behaved up ’til the officer told her to put out the cigarette. That’s the point at which the officer becomes very ill-behaved. I watched the video and at one point the officer says, “you need to go”. Was he talking to the female officer that showed up to support him or to Sandra Bland?

  13. 2karmanot says:

    It’s Texas. Black Lives there do not matter. Cops hunting humans is considered ‘practice.’

  14. The_Fixer says:

    This cop seems to be remarkably unobservant. He totally missed the more serious violation, running the stop sign. No doubt that Sandra Bland was a sloppy driver, but that alone should not put her in a jail cell where she later died.

    The escalation of this episode was, at least as it appears to me, due to a personality clash. He interpreted her demeanor as being combative. While later on she certainly was outraged, initially it wasn’t really bad. His taking offense is reflective of the Law Enforcement Attitude – you’ll show me respect, do as I say and if you don’t, I’ll make this hellish. Kind of like Eric Cartmann on South Park – “Respect My Authoritah!”.

    Listening to his phone conversation, I noticed that he talked of this being a “routine” traffic stop. This is one thing that cops don’t understand – to those of us on the receiving end, a traffic stop is nothing but routine. Even being white, the cops scare the hell out of me and I do everything within my power to avoid them. I’ve gone so far as to skip coffee at the local convenience store when a group of them were hanging out around the coffee pots. Especially the young ones. The old ones aren’t so bad, they’ve generally mellowed out by the time they get close to retirement. However, they all have tremendous power of position, and to them, that’s routine. I can only imagine how terrified that black people are when they encounter cops.

    It’s a safe bet that the original, unedited tape is nowhere to be found if they took the time to edit it and present this chopped-up version to us. There’s a lot of shaky shit going on here, and I hope that the FBI can get to the bottom of it.

    I suspect that this will take a while, don’t hold your breath waiting for the truth to come out, if it ever does.

  15. BeccaM says:

    What was done to the dash-cam video goes far beyond mere editing. I was going to make a quip about it having been ‘doctored’ with a tongue-in-cheek apology to Mark, but this is flat-out amateur butchery.

    A mere edit would suggest a few deletions, perhaps justified by a desire to remove anything on the video/audio account not directly related to the Bland incident. But this? They looped and repeated unrelated video material, absolutely none of which remaining ever shows Ms. Bland assaulting Ofc. Brian Encinia, the charge for which she was arrested and thrown in jail for three days. The NY Times also reports that the audio ends three minutes before the end of the hour-long dash-cam video.

    Which then takes us to the supposed jailhouse video. Which we’re told shows no one going to Ms. Bland’s cell — where she’d been held for three days after a bogus arrest. However, the jailhouse video contains numerous gaps, some of them quite lengthy, which Waller County officials claim is because the video system is set to record only when the camera detects motion.

    We’re supposed to believe this? That a police department apparently willing to do an Ed Gein on their own dashcam video and claim it was just “a glitch” wouldn’t tamper with their own allegedly exonerating jailhouse video, too? Suppose someone turns off the system or disables the motion sensor. Would we know or be able to tell? The camera doesn’t even show the door or the inside of the cell in which Ms. Bland was being held, and there are 90 minutes (7:30am-9am) during which there are no recordings on the morning in question before her discovery by a deputy, who then summons EMTs.

    I’ll just conclude with this thought: A plastic trash bag said by many not to be strong enough to hang oneself with would still likely be sturdy enough for strangling someone. Basically, a modern-day lynching, perhaps.

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