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Video shows custody death woman in row with Texas State Trooper

Sandra Bland
Sandra Bland

A Texas state trooper tried to pull black motorist Sandra Bland out of her car, then drew his stun gun and threatened her after she refused to follow his orders during a traffic stop.

A police video shows what happened during the encounter, days before Ms Bland was found dead in a jail cell, in a case that has caused her family and supporters to dispute that she hanged herself, as authorities have said.

The incident swiftly escalated into a shouting confrontation as the officer attempted to drag the 28-year-old from her vehicle, with him saying at one point "I will light you up," a possible threat to use the stun gun.

The video posted by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) shows the trooper stopping Ms Bland for failure to signal a lane change.

After he hands her a written warning, the trooper remarks that she seems irritated, and the Illinois woman replies that she had changed lanes to make way for the trooper's car.

The conversation quickly turns hostile when the officer asks Ms Bland to put out her cigarette and she asks why she cannot smoke in her own car. The trooper then orders her to get out of the vehicle. She refuses, and he tells her she is under arrest.

Further refusals to get out bring a threat from the trooper to drag her out. He then pulls what appears to be a weapon and says: "I will light you up."

Ms Bland's death comes after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of cases in which blacks have been killed by police officers.

The case has resonated on social media, with posts questioning the official account and featuring the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland.

Others referred to #SandySpeaks, the hashtag Ms Bland used in monologues she posted on Facebook in which she talked about police brutality and said she had a calling from God to speak out against racism and injustice.

After Ms Bland finally stepped out of the vehicle, the confrontation continued off-camera but was still audible. The two kept yelling at each other as the officer tried to put her in handcuffs and waits for other troopers to arrive.

The trooper said that after handcuffing her for becoming combative, she swung her elbows at him and kicked him in his right shin.

In the affidavit, trooper Brian Encinia said he then used force "to subdue Bland to the ground" and she continued to fight back. He arrested her for assault on a public servant.

The trooper has been placed on administrative leave for violating unspecified police procedures and the DPS courtesy policy.

"Regardless of the situation, it doesn't matter where it happens, a DPS state trooper has got an obligation to exhibit professionalism and be courteous ... and that wasn't the case in this situation," said Steven McCraw, the department director.

Ms Bland was taken to the Waller County Jail about 60 miles from Houston on July 10 and found dead on July 13. A Texas Rangers investigation into her death is being supervised by the FBI.

Although a medical examiner has ruled the death a suicide, supporters insist she was upbeat and looking forward to a new job at Prairie View A&M University, where she graduated in 2009.

MS Bland posted a video to her Facebook page in March, saying she was suffering from "a little bit of depression as well as PTSD" - post-traumatic stress disorder. Family members have said nothing in her background suggested she was mentally troubled.