Sandra Bland’s Mother says her Daughter Is Still Speaking

Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, Thursday, May 12. Sandra Bland was found hanged in her Texas jail cell July 13th, 2015. | James Foster / For the Sun-Times
Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, Thursday, May 12. Sandra Bland was found hanged in her Texas jail cell July 13th, 2015. | James Foster / For the Sun-Times

Rivaling a Baptist preacher caught up in the spirit, the mother of Sandra Bland has entered into a zone. Geneva Reed-Veal’s voice rises, then falls to a whisper. She erupts in laughter, then chokes back tears.

Her emotions have ranged just as widely ever since the West Side woman got the call last July that changed her life. The news then was that her daughter — the second-youngest of her five children — was dead. She’d been found hanged in a jail cell three days after being pulled over for a minor traffic infraction in Waller County, Texas, while there from Chicago for a job interview at a university.

Bland’s death, ruled a suicide, was one of a number of cases nationwide the past few years in which unarmed black suspects were killed during their arrests or died while in police custody. Their deaths have helped fuel the “Black Lives Matter” movement and also a reexamination of police practices across the United States.

After all the protests and scrutiny, Reed-Veal and her family have been girding themselves for another long haul, this time for what’s sure to be a series of closely watched courtroom dramas.

On Tuesday, Reed-Veal, along with Bland’s oldest sister, will be deposed by attorneys for Brian Encinia, the former Texas state trooper who arrested the 28-year-old Naperville woman on July 10, 2015. The Texas Department of Public Safety fired Encinia in March, saying his actions after pulling Bland over violated department standards.

“You took my baby, but you’re going to question me,” Reed-Veal says of the depositions.

It’s just the beginning of the legal proceedings for Bland’s family. Later will come their wrongful-death lawsuit, which accuses Encinia, the Waller County sheriff’s office, Waller County Jail officials and the state Department of Public Safety of wrongly jailing Bland and failing to take preventive measures, despite warning signs, to guard against suicide.

In March, in a courtroom about 50 miles west of Houston, Encinia pleaded “not guilty” to a misdemeanor charge of perjury. Accused of lying about why he arrested the 28-year-old Bland after pulling her over for failing to signal a lane change, his next hearing is on June 21.

It was difficult to face Encinia in court the first time, at his plea hearing.

“You better know God to go through something like this,” says Reed-Veal, a part-time minister at The Word Works Church in West Humboldt Park who also runs her own real estate business. “When you walk in to a courtroom and everybody’s laughing, when the district attorney is laughing, when on the opposite side everything is funny, when you see all of these U.S. marshals surrounding him like he’s the victim. Your baby’s dead, but he’s able to talk and plead his case.

“And he says he’s not guilty. And I have to sit there as I watch this man smirk at the family. And I have to say, ‘OK, I gotta keep my mind on the master and not on this man.’ So I didn’t look at him again. And I was all right. I didn’t cry.”

Police dashcam video and bystanders’ cellphone videos show Encinia drawing his stun gun and telling Bland, “I will light you up!”

Off-camera, she can be heard screaming that he’s about to break her wrist and that the officer smashed her head into the ground.

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Source: Chicago Sun Times | Maudlyne Ihejirika