Thu | Sep 21, 2017

US$1.9 million settlement in wrongful death suit

Published:Friday | September 16, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, a black Chicago woman who died in a Texas jail after a contentious traffic stop last summer.

HOUSTON, Texas (AP):

The family of Sandra Bland, a black Chicago-area woman who died in a Texas jail after a contentious traffic stop last summer, has reached a $1.9-million settlement in their wrongful-death lawsuit, the family's attorney told a Houston television yesterday.

But local officials said the agreement has not been finalised and was supposed to remain confidential until a final settlement was reached.

Bland died in her cell at the Waller County Jail three days after she was arrested by a white Texas state trooper for a minor traffic offence in July 2015. Her death was ruled a suicide, and Brand's family later sued the county and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

 

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

 

The family's attorney, Cannon Lambert, told Houston television-station KTRK that the $1.9 million settlement includes a provision that the jail have a 24-hour nurse or emergency medical technician on duty. Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, told the station that any legislation passed which benefits Waller County must be named in her daughter's honour.

"It's awesome," Reed-Veal told the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. "It's a victory for mothers across the country."

Waller County attorney Larry Simmons said yesterday that a potential settlement has been reached but is not final. He also said the parties involved agreed in writing that the agreement would be kept confidential until it was finalised.

Bland was pulled over by a state trooper in Prairie View, northwest of Houston, for changing lanes without signalling. The stop grew confrontational, and the trooper, Brian Encinia, ordered her from the car before forcing her to the ground. She was taken into custody on a charge of assaulting a public servant, but she was unable to immediately come up with the $500 bail, according to investigators.

Video from the traffic stop shows Encinia drawing his stun gun and telling Bland, "I will light you up!" She can later be heard off-camera screaming that he's about to break her wrists, and complaining that he knocked her head into the ground. The video provoked national outrage and drew the attention of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Encinia was later fired and charged a misdemeanour perjury charge stemming from the arrest. He has pleaded not guilty.