Brian Encinia, the Texas State Trooper who was indicted on a criminal charge over his arrest of Sandra Bland in July 2015 who was later found dead in jail, has been officially fired, three months after his superiors announced that they will do so, state officials declared Wednesday.
As the Guardian reports, Encinia stopped Bland, 28, who was on a road trip from Texas to Illinois for what police allegedly said was a failure to indicate a lane change. She was subsequently arrested after a confrontation was triggered because of her refusal to extinguish her cigarette. Several days later, Bland was found hanged in a Waller County jail cell.
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Her death once again ignited a national debate about the treatment of African Americans in police custody and allegations of foul play.
Trooper Encinia was fired after failing to refute the disciplinary charges brought against him in January. Public Safety Director Steve McCraw wrote in a final letter of termination that he had “no reason to alter his preliminary decision” after Encinia’s claims in an affidavit that Bland was “combative and uncooperative” where determined by grand jurors to be untrue.
A dash cam video obtained from the former state trooper’s car shows the trooper being instantly confrontational as he stops Bland and draws his stun gun telling her “I will light you up” after she refuses to step outside her car. Bland eventually gets out of the vehicle and out of the view of the camera, where the confrontation continues.
A bystander’s video shows Bland on the ground after being pulled from her car crying in distress and saying she could not hear after being slammed into the ground. She was arrested for assault and taken to the Waller County jail. Her family was still working on her $500 bail when she was found dangling from a jail cell partition with a plastic garbage bag around her neck.
An autopsy revealed that she had 25 to 30 horizontal “scarred regions of healing” on her left forearm, multiple abrasions on the right side of her back, and a healing abrasion on her left wrist. A medical examiner said the injuries were consistent with a suicide. Ms. Bland was said to have disclosed a previous suicide attempt to officials when she lost her baby.
There were growing doubts over why she was not properly monitored. Friends and family have vehemently denied that Bland would commit suicide over a traffic violation, adding that she was in high spirits after a successful job interview.
Officials insisted that Bland was a vocal activist of police maltreatment and brutality against African Americans and got dejected when she could not post her bail and go free. A grand jury declined to charge anyone at the jail for compliance in her death.
Bland’s family argue that she was not meant to be in jail in the first place.
“There is no way a traffic stop for failure to signal should have ended in an arrest,” they argued.
“It’s very clear that her civil rights were violated and that the officer acted in gross professional misconduct,” her sister, Sharon Cooper said.
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Encinia, who is still awaiting trial for his indictment, can still appeal the decision to fire him. His attorney, Larkin Eakin, had no comment. But he had previously stated that the indictment was groundless because his client feared for his safety.
Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, is shocked at Encinia’s perjury misdemeanor charge, which attracts only a $4,000 fine and 12 months in jail.
“I’m angry absolutely… that’s not justice for me,” she said
[Photo by Waller County Sheriff’s Office/File/AP]