Brian Encinia, the Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland this summer, has been indicted for lying on a police report. Now, his employer is making moves terminate him.
However, Bland’s family isn’t happy with the grand jury’s decision to indict Encinia on perjury charges, which they said didn’t go nearly far enough. Sandra died three days after her arrest in Waller County jail cell, her death explained away as a suicide, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Brian Encinia, 30, stopped Sandra last July for failing to signal a lane change. Sandra, a 28-year-old black woman, had just returned to Texas to assume a job at A&M University, which she attended; she was pulled over near the university.
The ensuing confrontation between the white police officer and the black woman was captured on both a dashboard camera from Encinia’s cruiser and by a bystander, revealing a heated encounter after Bland refused to put out a cigarette.
At one point, Brian pulled Sandra out of her car, took out a stun gun, and told her, “I will light you up.”
Brian Encinia’s arrest of Bland, and her cause of death, are still in dispute, the New York Times added.
After her arrest, Brian Encinia filed a one-page affidavit with county jail officials to justify the arrest, in which he stated that he removed Bland from her car in order to conduct a safer traffic investigation. The grand jury “just didn’t believe” that, said one of five special prosecutors in the case, Darrell Jordan.
Bland’s family isn’t satisfied that Encinia has only been charged with perjury, according to Cannon Lambert, who is representing them in a federal civil lawsuit.
“We just don’t understand why it took six months to charge him for lying when you can see he was lying in the videotape they have had from the very beginning. We also don’t understand why [Encinia] wasn’t charged with assault when he said ‘I’ll light you up, and with battery for grabbing [Bland] when she was in the car. Why didn’t they charge him with false arrest? The whole arrest was predicated on a phantom kick – why didn’t they charge him with abuse of police power — all he had to do was give her the warning.”
Brian Encinia’s attorney, Larkin Eakin, said her client was surprised he’d been indicted because he “does not feel anything was misleading in his report.” He intends to plead not guilty to a Class A misdemeanor charge of perjury, which could carry a year in prison and a $4,000 fine. The evening after the grand jury announcement, his employer started the process to terminate the trooper.
He has never spoken publicly about the incident but told supervisors that he tried to de-escalate the situation with Bland, adding that she kicked him and tried to escape. After the video of the confrontation surfaced, Encinia’s superiors decided he’d violated the department’s standards and courtesy policy, and he was placed on administrative duty.
Wednesday’s indictment was the last major issue that the grand jury had to consider in the case — the matter of whether Brian Encinia would be charged criminally. The investigation began in August, and in December, special prosecutors announced that the grand jury decided not to indict any staff at the county jail or sheriff’s office in connection with her death. However, state regulators found violations at the jail and determined staff were to blame for not observing Bland more closely or noticing the warning signs of suicide.
The grand jury’s review of Sandra’s arrest and death has been completed. Her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, called Brian Encinia’s perjury charge a “slap on the wrist.” But the family’s wrongful-death suit is still pending. A trial in the case is scheduled for January 2017.
In the lawsuit, the family claims Sandra should never have been arrested and accuses Brian Encinia specifically of fabricating a cause for arresting her. It also claims that jail officials failed to supervise her, even after she told them she’d attempted to kill herself before.
[Photo by Waller County Sheriff’s Department/AP]