By now, most of us have heard the tragic news about the death of Sandra Bland, a woman who died while being held in jail. Due to the lack of details about the nature of her death and the inconsistencies with what has already been reported, many have taken to social media to point out discrepancies in the evidence being used to prove her alleged suicide. A couple days ago, Emma Bracy published an article where she interviewed California-based attorney John Hamasaki due to his specialization in criminal defense law. Hamasaki reviews the dashcam footage twice before commenting on the legality of the proceedings during Sandra Bland’s arrest.

He starts by walking through the video and confirming the protocols that would normally take place in a detention like this — including her being told to pull over, her complying with his request of her identification, his searching for any warrants, etc. However, once she is written up with the citation or warning, this is where Hamasaki’s legal opinion and the officer’s actions deviate. He comments on the fact that following the citation, Officer Encina doesn’t appear to have any other reason to continue her detention.

“At that point, the question is, what’s his legal right to continue her detention? Why is he allowed to keep her there by the side of the road? So, the first problem that I see — and I’ve watched it twice, but I may have missed some details or intricacies — but I don’t know what exists at the point where the confrontation begins that allows him to continue the detention. Meaning, why is he allowed to keep her there?

Hamasaki mentions that Sandra Bland could have legally left the scene and driven home following the citation. Instead, the officer “orders” Sandra to put out her cigarette, which Hamasaki states he has no legal right to do.

“Once the investigative detention relating to the traffic stop was complete, he had no basis to detain her, no basis to order her to put out her cigarette, and no lawful basis to order her out of her vehicle.”

His comments also suggest that Sandra had the right to refuse Officer Encina’s demand to put out her cigarette, calling it “unlawful.” He even goes so far as to point out that, legally, Sandra has every right to use reasonable force to defend herself against a police officer’s unlawful actions. Based on Hamasaki’s analysis, Officer Encina’s actions were unlawful and she had the right to resist. According to him, the officer lost control and his actions cannot be legally justified.

“When she would not submit to his unlawful order, he escalated the situation to the point of using unlawful force. He has no right to put his hands on her, and I’m speaking from my view. I haven’t heard his justification yet, but there doesn’t seem to be any basis for him to put his hands on Sandra Bland. Yes, she talked back to him, maybe she made him feel bad. You know what, you’re a professional; that’s your job. Whether or not it’s a department-wide issue, or a city-wide issue, or a cultural issue, or if it’s just one officer — this officer is clearly in the wrong.”

Hamasaki’s review of the dashcam and the arrest are a shocking but needed account. For so long, the voices of Sandra’s supporters and those questioning the integrity of her arrest have fallen upon deaf ears because of a lack of motivation to search for the truth. Many have gone so far as to suggest that black people only want this to be the officer’s fault so that we can “blame it all on race.” Attorney Hamasaki’s review serves to prove that race aside, although it’s role cannot be ignored, this arrest extended beyond its legal boundaries and resulted in the loss of an innocent woman’s life. What really happened to Sandra Bland in jail to cause her death is still unsettling to many, myself included, and we all want answers.

As a community and as a people, we are owed the truth. The discrepancies in police reports where lives of blacks, Hispanics and other targeted minorities are never explored only serves to further highlight that our bodies are viewed as expendable. Our prayers are with Sandra’s family and all of those struggling to find peace and closure in the truth that is left to be discovered and the justice yet to be realized.

For the full interview and dashcam analysis, visit the article here. Keep hope alive.

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