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Waller County, Texas, Releases Sandra Bland Booking Video


A judge in Waller County, Texas, has released hours of surveillance video today. The video shows Sandra Bland in jail during the two-and-a-half days before she was found dead in her cell. County officials say she hanged herself, but her family says she was not suicidal. Her death has become the focus of conspiracy theories on the Internet, theories that Waller County is now trying to disprove. NPR's Martin Kaste has this update, beginning with the sound of one of those Internet theories.


COMPUTER-GENERATED VOICE: On July 10 of this year, Sandra Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: This YouTube video is the kind of thing Waller County officials are worried about. It was ostensibly produced by the online activist group Anonymous and narrated by its trademark synthesized voice.


COMPUTER-GENERATED VOICE: We cannot abide by their word or trust their so-called evidence. Sandra Bland was already dead in her mug shot.

KASTE: Assertions like this - that Sandra Bland looks dead in her mug shot - have whipped up a lot of anger online, and Judge Trey Duhon says Waller County is now under cyberattack from Anonymous. He says officials are also receiving threats by email and phone. That's a big reason that they're now releasing these videos of Sandra Bland in jail.


TREY DUHON: We hope that if this helps a few people understand and dispel some of the rumors that are going around, then it's worth our time to do this here today.

KASTE: The time-stamped videos show Bland at various stages of processing - answering intake questionnaires, going to get her mug shot and making telephone calls to friends and family. Occasionally, she's seen wiping away tears. There's no sound, but Bland does not appear to have been physically mistreated. Still, these videos don't answer all the questions being raised online.

For instance, there's the mystery of the high levels of marijuana found in her system after her death. According to a blood test released yesterday, the level was so high, experts say she likely consumed the drug while she was in jail. But so far, there's been no explanation for how or when that could've happened. Prosecutors say they're still investigating her death, and they'll refer the case to a grand jury next month. Martin Kaste, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.