A black woman who was found hanging dead in her Texas jail cell after her arrest following a minor traffic violation said she had attempted to commit suicide in the past year, the county sheriff said on Wednesday.
"On the first initial questionnaire when she came in, she told (the jailers) she had tried to commit suicide last year," Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith said in a telephone interview. He added that the woman, Sandra Bland, also said she was not currently depressed.
The attorney for the Bland family told a news conference in the Chicago area that the family was aware of the comments but had not seen the official reports.
"This family has no evidence" she ever tried to commit suicide, attorney Cannon Lambert said.
The family has maintained Bland, 28, was excited to start her new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, and was not suicidal.
Bland was pulled over on July 10 near Prairie View, Texas, northwest of Houston for failing to signal a lane change. After the incident escalated into an altercation with the trooper, Bland was taken into custody and charged with assaulting an officer. She was found hanging in her jail cell on July 13 with a plastic trash bag around her neck.
Her death was originally ruled a suicide, although officials have said they are handling it as a murder probe.
Demonstrators have protested outside the jail where Bland died, and her case has been taken up by activists who say it is the latest example of racial bias and excessive force by U.S. law enforcement. The trooper involved in the incident is white.
(Reporting by Michael Lansu; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Eric Walsh and Peter Cooney)