Brian Encinia, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, was recently hit with two pieces of bad news. A grand jury announced they were going to indict him on perjury charges over Bland’s arrest. The DPS also announced they planned to fire Encinia over the perjury charges. Encinia violently arrested Bland, a Black Illinois woman, in an incident that was captured on dashcam. She was found hanged to death in a Texas jail cell three days later.
Encinia’s statement in a one-page affidavit was one of the reasons why the grand jury decided to indict him, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Encinia said he pulled Grand out of her Hyundai to “further conduct a safe traffic investigation.” But the dashcam video clearly showed him struggling with Bland and threatening to “light her” up with his taser. Bland also accused him of slamming her head to the ground.
“They (the grand jury) just didn’t believe it,” said Special Prosecutor Darrell Jordan. He added a warrant for Encinia’s arrest would soon be issued.
After the indictment was announced, the DPS said they would begin the termination process against Encinia, who joined the department in June 2014.
In July 2014, Encinia pulled Bland over for an illegal lane change and then violently dragged her out of her car, because she refused to comply with his orders. DPS Director Steven McCraw said Encinia violated police procedure during his encounter with Bland. According to The Texas Tribune, the DPS and Encinia are immune to a federal lawsuit under the 11th amendment.
In December the grand jury decided not to indict anyone for Bland’s death. But like many Black families, Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, has taken her fight to the civil courts. She has filed a wrongful death case in federal court. Reed-Veal is suing the DPS, Waller County and the two jailers who oversaw her daughter. Reed-Veal claims her daughter was denied her constitutional rights and that contributed to her death.
Although a medical examiner ruled Bland’s death a suicide, her mother expressed frustration at the way the investigation was handled. The Bland family has also requested an independent autopsy.
“Right now the biggest problem I have is the entire process,” said Reed-Veal at a press conference. “It’s the secrecy of it all.”
However, Reed-Veal is not the only person unhappy at the way Bland’s arrest was handled. State Sen. Rodney Ellis said both Waller County and the state of Texas need to review how law enforcement officers were trained.
“This includes police training in de-escalation techniques and community policing. It means policies like pre-arrest and pre-trial diversion, prohibiting arrests for minor offenses like Class C misdemeanors, and encouraging greater use of Texas’ cite-and-release statute,” he said. “It means protecting defendants’ constitutional rights by appointing counsel at the earliest stages and expanding and funding public defender offices.”
Back in Illinois, local residents have not forgotten Sandra Bland, who was known as a social justice activist. The Chicago Tribune recently reported the DuPage African Methodist Church, where Bland grew up, is naming its annual diversity institute after her this year. The Sandra A. Bland Diversity Institute will teach children ages 5-18 about civil rights and how to get involved in their local communities, according to The Chicago Tribune.