The family of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman arrested at a traffic stop in Texas who was later found dead in her cell, has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $1.9 million and “historic” changes in jail operations, the family’s lawyer said Thursday.
Waller County released a statement saying a tentative settlement had been reached but denied wrongdoing in the case that stemmed from an angry confrontation caught on video July 10, 2015. Details were still being worked out and a judge must approve any final plan, the statement said.
“It’s not a tentative it’s absolute, and we are very happy about it,” the family’s lawyer Cannon Lambert told USA TODAY. “We were able to secure $1.9 million for the family and get historic changes, things you never see in a resolution like this.”
Lambert said changes coming to the jail include using automated electronic sensors to ensure cells are regularly checked, staffing the jail with a nurse or medical technician for all shifts and providing continuing education for jail workers. He also said the county judge agreed to press for state legislation that would increase funding and training at jails across the state.
The legislation, Lambert said, would be named after Bland.
Bland, 28, was a Chicago-area native who graduated from Prairie View, a predominately black school about 45 miles northwest of Houston, and was returning there for a job. Dash cam video from Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia’s car showed the officer pulling Bland over for an alleged improper lane change near the school.
The traffic stop escalated, with Bland refusing to get out of her car and protesting her arrest. She screamed that the officer was about to break her wrists and complained that he knocked her head into the ground.
Bland was taken into custody and charged with assaulting a public servant. She was sent to Waller County Jail and held on $5,000 bail. She was found hanged in her cell three days later, and her death was ruled a suicide.
A grand jury decided not to charge anyone at the jail in Bland’s death, but Encinia ultimately was charged with perjury and fired.
Bland’s family steadfastly denied she suffered from depression or other disorders prior to her arrest.