UPDATE: 6:55 a.m. EST — The Texas Department of Public Safety announced late Wednesday that it was firing state trooper Brian Encinia after being indicted on perjury charges earlier in the day in the Sandra Bland custodial death case, the Wall Street Journal reported. He had been placed on administrative leave since the July 2015 incident.
The Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland — a Chicago-area black woman who was found hanged in her cell days later — was indicted on perjury charges Wednesday afternoon in Waller County, Texas, the Houston Chronicle reported. The charge against Brian Encinia is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
The charge originated from a statement Encinia made in his report about the July incident. He had stopped Bland, 28, for an improper lane change and eventually ordered her to get out of her car, in part because she refused to extinguish her cigarette, International Business Times previously reported. At one point, Encinia, holding a stun gun, yelled, “I will light you up! ” He is accused of lying about how he removed Bland from her vehicle, the Associated Press reported.
A dashcam video showed an escalating confrontation between Bland and Encinia. The trooper claimed he had been elbowed and kicked in the shins while trying to arrest Bland for noncompliance and assault. After the incident, he was placed on administrative leave.
— Kaitlin McCulley (@KaitlinMcCulley) January 6, 2016
Bland was found dead in her jail cell three days after being arrested for the traffic stop, and while authorities claimed she hanged herself, her family expressed suspicion. Last month, a grand jury in Waller County decided not to indict any county jail employees in her death.
"Right now, the biggest problem for me is the entire process. I simply can't have faith in a system that's not inclusive of my family that's supposed to have the investigation," Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said Monday, KPRC-TV in Houston reported.
Bland’s relatives have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against Encinia, the Department of Public Safety, Waller County and county jailers Elsa Magnus and Oscar Prudente. A trial date has been scheduled for January 2017, the Houston Chronicle reported.