The family of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman who was found dead in a Texas jail cell after her arrest following a traffic stop, has reached a tentative settlement of its wrongful death lawsuit, according to the family's attorney and officials in Waller County, Texas.
Cannon Lambert, the lawyer representing Bland’s family, told ABC-owned station WLS in Chicago today that a $1.9 million settlement was reached in the family's civil suit against the Texas Department of Public Safety; Waller County, Texas; and some county employees including two former jailers.
Waller County released a statement by its attorney Larry Simmons that a potential settlement agreement has been reached but that a few details remain to be worked out and the final deal must be approved by the county commissioners. "The Waller County defendants ... emphasize they vigorously deny any fault or wrongdoing," the county's attorney said.
Bland was taken to the Waller County jail on July 10, 2015, after a state trooper pulled her over on suspicion of an illegal lane change and she and the officer had a confrontation that was captured on video. Bland was found dead in her cell three days later. An autopsy by a county medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said the most important part of the tentative settlement is the changes that Waller County would make to its jailhouse procedures.
“Obviously, it will never bring Sandy back,” Reed-Veal said in an interview with WLS. But, she added, “I feel so excited that now we have real change that’s about to happen right there in Waller County. I believe it will affect many, many other places across the country. It’s a victory for mothers.”
Lambert said that under the settlement Waller County must provide emergency nurses during all shifts at the jail; use automated electronic sensors to ensure accurate and timely checks on all occupied jail cells; and actively seek passage of state legislation that would provide greater funding for the intake and screening of county jail inmates and for other supports for local jails.
Of the $1.9 million agreed to in the settlement, Waller County will be responsible for the bulk of it, $1.8 million, Lambert told WLS. The Texas Department of Public Safety is limited by state statutes to paying no more than $100,000 under such lawsuits, he said.
ABC News has reached out to Lambert for additional comment.
Bland, of Naperville, Illinois, was pulled over when she was moving to Texas for a new job at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black school in Prairie View, Texas, from which she graduated in 2009.
After she was found dead in her jail cell, an autopsy conducted by Harris County found that Bland died by asphyxiation and that she used a plastic bag to hang herself from a partition in her cell. The results from a second independent autopsy requested by Bland’s family have not been released.
A grand jury investigated but declined in late 2015 to indict anyone in her death.
Bland's mother told WLS today, “I’m just literally grateful that it’s all over ... But now, the new chapter is beginning.”