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Officer in Sandra Bland Case Said His Job Was On the Line if He Didn’t Agree to Keep Quiet About Evidence of Wrongdoing

Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in Waller County Jail cell last June. Photo courtesy of Ashley Anderson.

Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in a Waller County Jail cell last June. Her death was ruled a suicide, but her family refutes it. Photo courtesy of Ashley Anderson.

A Texas cop present during the ill-fated traffic stop of Sandra Bland last June said that officials at the Waller County District Attorney’s office would not allow him to testify in the case or present evidence that would be favorable to Bland.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Officer Michael Kelley was told his career would suffer if he went public with what he had seen and heard that day. Kelley told the publication Tuesday that his allegations against the District Attorney’s office were outlined in a sworn deposition related to the federal lawsuit filed by Bland’s mother over the 28-year-old’s death at the Waller County Jail.

In light of the accusations, Waller County District Attorney Elton R. Mathis called Kelley’s account “fictional,” and pointed out that the officer is currently battling an indictment on charges that he wrongly arrested a local city councilman. Kelly had been with the Prairie View police since 2014 but was suspended due to the wrongful arrest charge, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“I unequivocally state that he never approached me, my first assistant, or any member of my staff with any such information,” Mathis wrote in an e-mailed statement. “His job was never threatened by me or my staff, and I barely knew who he was before he was indicted.”

Kelley asserts that his allegations are indeed true. According to the New York Daily News, Kelley said a county prosecutor warned him not to testify before a grand jury and or speak with a lawyer representing the Bland family.

“He told me it wouldn’t be good for my career,” Kelley said.

The Prairie View officer also told the Huffington Post he saw bruises on Bland’s forehead when he arrived at the scene of her July 25 traffic stop and arrest. He recalled hearing arresting officer Brian Encinia trying to decide what charges the woman should face; she was initially pulled over for failing to signal before changing lanes. Kelley also said when Bland notified Encinia that she suffered from epilepsy, the officer responded “good.”

“My opinion is that he (Encinia) messed up,” Kelly told the publication. “He did not have probable cause to detain her after he pulled her out of the car.”

Encinia was ultimately fired and charged with perjury.

According to the Houston Chronicle, a Texas Ranger came to the Prairie View station after Bland was found hanging in her jail cell and asked Kelley and another officer who was at the scene to write up a report of what they had witnessed. Kelley said he and the other other officer both printed out their reports, but the Ranger instructed them not to make copies or sign them.

“That’s when the red flags started coming on my end,” Kelley stated.

The Prairie View officer was presented with a copy of what was submitted as his statement during a deposition last week, the Houston Chronicle reports. Kelley said the facts in the report weren’t inaccurate, but “generic,” and omitted details about Bland’s bruised face and Encinia’s insensitive comment.

That’s when Kelley said he reached to the district attorney’s office, but was ultimately dismissed with his career hanging in the balance.

“I was not a target until I started running my mouth and sticking up for Sandra Bland,” said Kelley.

Mathis still calls the officer’s accusations “an attempt to divert attention away from the crime committed against Councilman Miller and to cash in on the media attention and sad circumstances surrounding Ms. Bland’s death last year for which we all still mourn.”

Kelley’s allegations come days after a Waller County jailer admitted to falsifying jail logs to show that he checked on Bland an hour before her death when he really didn’t, Atlanta Black Star reports.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Waller County attorney’s officer quickly requested a gag order of court proceedings on the case after the jailer’s admission.

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