Former State Trooper Brian Encinia, who pulled Sandra Bland over last summer, has officially been fired.
Encinia pulled over Bland, 28, in a routine traffic stop on July 10, 2015, when she failed to signal a lane change. He alleged that Bland started a confrontation. In an affidavit regarding Bland’s arrest, Encinia said, “I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation. Bland became combative and uncooperative. Bland was removed from the car but became more combative.”
However, dash cam footage from Encinia’s patrol car revealed that a confrontation did not begin until Bland refused to put out her cigarette and Encinia, not Bland, became aggressive. He threatened to “yank” Bland out of the car and said, “I am gonna drag you out of here I will light you up.” Cell phone video from a witness of the arrest shows Bland laying on the ground, where she accuses Encinia of using excessive force: “You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that I can’t even hear.”
The altercation ended in Bland’s arrest. Three days later, Bland was found dead in her jail cell. The medical examiner ruled Bland’s death a suicide by hanging. Bland’s friends and family were outraged by her death and said Bland, who was an activist for issues of police brutality, would never take her own life.
In January, the Waller County grand jury indicted Encinia on perjury charges after it was determined that he lied in the affidavit. On Jan. 6, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced it would “begin termination proceedings” to fire Encinia. Encinia met with Steven C. McCraw, the department director, to discuss his termination. But in his termination letter to Encinia, McCraw said, “No cause has been presented to alter my preliminary decision.”
In addition to being charged with perjury, Encinia has also been accused of violating orders, not acting courteously during the initial traffic stop and prolonging Bland’s detention.
No one else at the jail has been indicted by the grand jury in connection to Bland’s death.
But for Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, the perjury charge, which is only a misdemeanor, is not enough.
“I’m angry, absolutely. That’s not justice for me,” she said of the charge.
Bland’s death ignited further conversation about the treatment of Blacks while in police custody. It also sparked #IfIDieInPoliceCustody, a topic people used on Twitter to declare their own personal statements that they would never take their own lives while in police custody.
Bland was not the only Black woman to be found dead in a jail cell under suspicious circumstances. A month after Bland’s death, 37-year-old Ralkina Jones was arrested and was recorded telling officers, “I don’t want to die in your cell”; hours later, however, Jones was in fact found dead in her cell. And last month, 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen was found unresponsive in a juvenile detention center in Kentucky. It has since been revealed that detention center employees failed to perform proper checks on the young girl.
In August, Reed-Veal filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that her daughter should not have been arrested in the first place and that she was left in unsafe conditions following her arrest.