“At this particular point in time, I have not seen any evidence to indicate that this is a homicide,” Diepraam said.
Bland’s death has been classified by the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office as suicide by hanging.
She died in the Waller County Jail on July 13, three days after a routine traffic stop ended in her arrest. In the days that followed, Bland’s friends and family members said they were skeptical of the official account of the circumstances surrounding her death.
Authorities have launched an investigation into the matter. Waller County officials on Thursday did not release the full autopsy for Bland, which was conducted by Harris County officials, as Waller County does not have a medical examiner’s office. Authorities said the autopsy results might be released soon.
“All I can say is that we’re looking for the truth,” Diepraam said. “We’re trying be open in this investigation and inform the public.”
At the news conference at the courthouse in Hempstead, Diepraam showed a series of photos from the investigation, including one of a garbage bag fashioned into what appeared to be a noose and a close-up of a deep scar around Bland’s neck. Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis “has requested additional forensic testing on that bag,” Diepraam said. “Those results are not in.”
Officials also discussed preliminary findings from a toxicology report that indicated Bland had marijuana in her system. “There have been some instances or claims about a substantial amount of marijuana in her system,” Diepraam said. “There has been a confirmation of those results, however those results are preliminary.”
Diepraam said a more comprehensive toxicology test would be conducted.
When asked why marijuana levels would be relevant, he said: “It’s a mood amplifier, so it is relevant in our opinion to determine whether or not marijuana played a role in death as well, by exacerbating existing conditions.”
There were also about 30 cut marks on Bland’s left arm, which Diepraam said were in “a state of healing.” Those marks indicated that the cuts occurred about two to four weeks prior to Bland’s jailing, and weren’t recently inflicted. Diepraam said the marks were “consistent with self-inflicted wounds.”
Cannon Lambert, an attorney for Bland’s family, did not immediately return a message from The Post on Thursday.
During her jail intake, Bland said she previously attempted suicide this year with pills after the loss of a baby, according to documents Waller County officials released Wednesday.
The documents contain different answers to some questions. On an earlier, handwritten intake form, Bland said she was feeling “very depressed” on the day of her arrest and had previously had suicidal thoughts. Different answers appear on a later, computerized form.
Diepraam told The Washington Post in an e-mail that “the discrepancy arises because she made conflicting statements to the jail personnel. The responses are hers, therefore the contradictions were created by her.”
Diepraam added that Bland’s “later statement most likely played a role in the jail personnel’s decisions not to place her on suicide watch, but that is a question for the sheriff.”
The combination of self-reported answers on her first suicide screening form should have triggered notification to the magistrate and local crisis center, according to recommended guidelines from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
The staffer who observed Bland during the suicide screening did not indicate that a magistrate was notified; that section was left blank.
Lambert, the lawyer for Bland’s family, said at a news conference earlier Wednesday that Bland was excited to move from Illinois to Texas to start her new job. “I can tell you that we take issue with the notion that she had depression,” Lambert said. He added that her family wasn’t aware of her taking depression medication and was never clinically diagnosed, but like many people, she experienced “hills and valleys.”
State trooper Brian Encinia stopped Bland on July 10 for failing to signal a lane change. The traffic stop was caught on a dashboard camera, which was later released.
The footage shows Encinia asking Bland to put out a cigarette. After she refuses, the encounter escalates.
Bland, whom Encinia at one point threatens with a stun gun, was eventually charged with assault on a public servant.
Encinia has been placed on administrative leave.
Bland’s death and the subsequent release of footage showing her arrest attracted national attention amid a larger conversation about police tactics and use of force on African Americans. A year ago, Eric Garner died after being placed in a police chokehold. Last August, 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., which led to protests and unrest. Grand juries declined to indict officers in both cases.
[This story has been updated.]