Sandra Bland's Family Reacts To Grand Jury's Decision
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
All right. Let's bring another voice in here. We've been listening to this piece with Sandra Bland's sister on the line. Her name's Sharon Cooper. She's in Chicago. Good morning to you.
SHARON COOPER: Good morning. How are you?
GREENE: I'm well, thank you. And I know this has been a difficult year for your family, and we're really sorry for your loss.
COOPER: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
GREENE: Can I just ask you to react to the news yesterday that there was no indictment from a grand jury so far in the death of your sister?
COOPER: Sure. You know, there's some disappointment, but also it did not come as a surprise to us because a grand jury is really a prosecutorial tool. Prosecutors are allowed to cherry-pick what evidence, if any, that they do present to a grand jury. So the grand jury process overall is flawed. And that's why it should not be utilized in this case and so many cases that are similar to this.
GREENE: Well, Sharon Cooper, it appears still possible that the grand jury could indict the arresting officer. Are you expecting that happen?
COOPER: No, I'll you, you know, I don't mean to sound so disenchanted, but I will tell you what has been going on in our country in the mere - the last nine months to a year in terms of the fact that there is clear evidentiary proof based on video footage. And this in Sandy's case not only do you have a dash cam video that shows the escalation of Officer Encinia's behavior, but you have a bystander video that shows Officer Encinia extending the use of his excessive force. That is a video that has been made available to the prosecutor for the last five months. So the fact that the grand jury would come back and make the decision not to indict the jailers and not make a decision on Officer Encinia, it makes us feel as though there's not going to be a positive outcome for us in that regard.
GREENE: As you watch all the video footage, may I ask you if there's anything you wish your sister had done differently or handled differently?
COOPER: That is an excellent question. And I will be honest with you. I've thought about it time and time again. And what I tell people is this - as a citizen of this country, there are certain rights that are given to you. Officer Encinia's decision to forcibly remove Sandy from her vehicle, which predicated on the fact that he asked her to do something - he did not lawfully order her to do something - to which she responded with a question. And for that - for that - I celebrate her because during a time where so many people would have remained silent she stood up for herself, and she invoked the rights that are due to her, and that is not unlawful.
GREENE: Sharon Cooper, when you say celebrate what your sister did, I hear you saying - and please correct me if I'm wrong - that there might have been things that she could have done differently that may have prevented this from escalating but you would not have wanted her to act in any different way and part of the way she acted is helping you grieve.
COOPER: Well, what I will tell you is the support from the world - it's not just an African-American citizen. There are people of all different walks of life who are rallying behind the concerns with the that Sandy was treated because what that says to me is that this is an American issue. When you have police officers like Office Encinia who is a trained professional, who is trained to de-escalate a situation where a motorist may not be in the best of moods because of an encounter that they're having with you, you are trained to respond differently. What I do believe happens in a lot of these cases is that we somehow want to place blame on the victim for their behavior or that they brought it upon themself. As law enforcement official, you are held to a higher standard. You are expected to execute your job in that regard.
GREENE: It sounds like you feel your sister died fighting for something important.
COOPER: Absolutely, absolutely. And to think about it in that vain - I mean, I'm really proud of her. She had a personal blog called Sandy Speaks, and it was where she took the opportunity to address societal and racial injustices. And she was primarily concerned about the police brutality that was impacting African-American men. And so I think what we have seen in response to Sandy's case is the fact that this is not just happening to men of color but it's happening to women as well.
GREENE: Sharon Cooper, thanks very much for taking the time this morning.
COOPER: Thank you so much.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREENE: She's the late Sandra Bland's sister, and this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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