The prosecutor in a Texas county where authorities say a woman hanged herself in a jail cell said Monday that it is too soon to determine exactly how she died and that the ongoing case is being treated as thoroughly “as it would be in a murder investigation.”
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said at a news conference that a Texas Rangers investigation into the death of Sandra Bland, whose family and friends dispute that she killed herself, is being supervised by the FBI.
Authorities have said Bland, a 28-year-old black woman from Naperville, Illinois, hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag July 13, three days after her arrest during a confrontational traffic stop. Her death at the Waller County jail, about 60 miles northwest of Houston, comes amid increased national scrutiny of police after a series of high-profile cases in which blacks have been killed by officers.
“It is very much too early to make any kind of determination that this was a suicide or a murder because the investigations are not complete,” Mathis said.
He said he’s asked the Texas Rangers to do extensive scientific testing for fingerprints, touch DNA and use any other valid investigative techniques “so we can figure out and say with certainty what happened in that cell.”
“This investigation is still being treated just as it would be in a murder investigation. There are many questions being raised in Waller County, across the country and the world about this case. It needs a thorough review,” Mathis said, noting, “It will go to a grand jury.”