In a statement issued on social media, Sanders weighed in on the situation, which has resulted in a mistrial, as he voiced his belief that race was definitely a factor regarding Bland’s death.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman,” Sanders tweeted on Monday (Dec. 21).
The senator’s comments are the latest in a series of developments to occur since Bland was found dead in her jail cell, where she’d hung herself with a plastic garbage bag, three days after Officer Brian Encinia stopped her for an improper lane change and arrested her on July 10, 2015.
Bland’s arrest was captured on dashcam footage, which showed Encinia, a state trooper, holding a gun up to Bland as he says, “I will light you up” when she refuses to leave her car.
Despite Bland’s death being ruled a suicide, her family has disputed the finding. News of the 28-year-old’s arrest and hanging has since been noted in national protests as additional evidence of unfair treatment of blacks by law enforcement. Since Bland’s death, Encinia has been on administrative leave.
Sanders’ tweet isn’t the first time he’s joined fellow Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in speaking out about Bland’s death in regards to reforming a police system they claim is racially biased and aggressively pursues minor offenses.
The senator mentioned Bland by name in the first presidential debate in October when responding to a question of whether “black lives matter” or “all lives matter.”
“Black lives matter,” Sanders responded. “The reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail.”
As it stands now, the grand jury, who was indecisive on whether to charge Encinia is set to decide whether it will indict the state trooper when it reconvenes in January, according to the Associated Press.