Ben Carson on Sunday rejected the suggestion that 28-year-old Sandra Bland's race played any role in her death in police custody and accused outsiders of trying to "inject race" into the investigation.
In an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation," the GOP presidential candidate was asked if he believed, as Bernie Sanders has said, that Bland would not have died "if she were a white woman."
Carson said the question should be examined, but cautioned, "I think we also have a tendency to inject race into everything anytime that there are people of different races involved in a conflict."
"Having said that," the retired neurosurgeon added, "there's no question we need to be looking at some of the things going on in the justice department to make it more sensitive to people."
As an example, he brought up the practice of jailing people who fail to pay exorbitant fines for minor traffic tickets.
"That thing costs like a 170 bucks," Carson said, of a moving violation. "They don't have any way of paying that. They ignore it the next you know there's a warrant for their arrest, they lose their job. All we have to do is be a little sensitive and say you can pay this off at 5 dollars a week."
When host John Dickerson followed up, asking Carson if he was arguing the issue had more to do with "class and economic situation" than race, the candidate went a step further.
"A lot of things that are class and economics are ascribed to race," he said.
Bland was found dead, hanged in a Texas prison cell last July after being pulled over and arrested after she allegedly failed to signal a lane change.
On Dec. 21, a grand jury decided not to indict anyone for any role in her death, which had been ruled a suicide.