The mother of a Chicago woman who was found dead in a Waller County Jail cell last month has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Houston federal court.
Naperville, Ill., resident Geneva Reed-Veal’s suit, filed Aug. 4 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas, pins the July 13 death of Sandra Bland on Waller County, the Texas Department of Public Safety, DPS Officer Brian T. Encinia, and Waller County employees Elsa Magnus and Oscar Prudente.
Court papers explain that Bland, 28, was in the process of moving from Illinois to Texas to start a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, on July 10 when Encinia pulled her over for supposedly making an illegal lane change along FM 1098 near the school.
According to the complaint, Encinia ordered Bland to extinguish or put out her cigarette to which the latter asked the officer, "I'm in my car, why do I have to put my cigarette out?" Bland subsequently put her cigarette out and was ordered to exit her Hyundai Azera.
The suit further asserts Encinia physically removed Bland from the vehicle, pointed his Taser at her, and remarked, "I'll light you up," adding the officer wrestled her to the ground, as well as slammed her head.
“Brian Encinia falsified an allegation of assault on a public servant against Sandra Bland for purposes of taking her into custody,” the suit says.
Bland was then transported to the Waller County Jail where jailers placed her in a cell by herself. She perished three days later “while under the custody and control of Waller County Jail,” the original petition says.
Bland was reportedly discovered “with a ligature made of a garbage bag around her neck.”
Reed-Veal believes the jail staff “failed to appropriately respond when (Sandra) Bland did not eat the meals provided to her” and “when (Sandra) Bland had bouts of uncontrollable crying”. Bland was also not allowed to contact family and friends by telephone “at various points in time,” the suit says.
Consequently, Reed-Veal seeks unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.
She is represented by attorneys Jesse Thomas Rhodes, III, Robert E. Brzezinski and Wayne Colodny of the Tom Rhodes Law Firm, P.C. in San Antonio.
Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas Case No. 4:15-CV-2232