State trooper Brian Encinia, who arrested Sandra Bland on July 10, 2015 in Prairie View, Texas, was indicted by the Waller County grand jury on Wednesday for perjury.The grand jury has charged him for allegedly lying in an affidavit about Bland’s traffic stop, which ultimately resulted in the 28-year-old Black woman’sdeath in a Waller County jail cell three days later.
Encinia, whohas been on paid desk duty since Bland’s death, is now out of a job. The Texas Department of Public Safety announced shortly after the perjury chargeit will “begin termination proceedings to discharge him from the department.”
The perjury charge is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
“The indictment was issued in reference to the reasoning [Encinia] removed her from her vehicle,” Special Prosecutor Shawn McDonald said during a press conference Wednesday.
In a one-page affidavit Encinia filed after taking Bland to jail, he wrote, “I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation.” The grand jury found this to be untrue.
Encinia also wrote she “became combative and uncooperative” after he pulled her over.
“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,” said Cannon Lambert, one of the attorneys representing Bland’s relatives. “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.”
Encinia stopped Bland for failing to signal when changing lanes near her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. She had just interviewed and accepted a job at the university. Police dashcam video shows the confrontation escalated after Encinia asked Bland to put out her cigarette and exit the car.
When she refused, he opened the driver-side door while adamantly saying, “Step out of the car. Step out or I will remove you.” A verbal altercation ensued. “I’m gonna yank you out of here,” Encinia said. He can be seen holding a stun gun and yelling, “I will light you up!”
The charges against Encinia come approximately two weeks after the same grand jury declined to indict anyone in connection to Bland’sdeath. On July 13, shewas found with a plastic bag around her neck and hanging from a jail cell partition. The formerNaperville, Ill. resident’s life ended inHempstead, Texas.
Medical examiners ruled her death a suicide, but Bland’s family has vehemently disagreed. The family has also publicly criticized the grand jury process.
In Chicago on Thursday Bland’s mother Geneva Reed-Veal said that Encinia should have been charged with assault, battery and false arrest.
“To charge this guy with a misdemeanor, are you kidding me” she said. “I’m angry, absolutely. … That’s not justice for me.”
“It’s something that should have happened at the inception of this case and this entire situation,” Sharon Cooper, Bland’s sister, said about the perjury charge against the trooper. “I feel like it’s acknowledgement for some of his actions, but not the totality of it. And that’s the problem that we have.”
Encinia also faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bland’s family, scheduled for trial in January 2017.
After he was charged with perjury, Encinia was not immediately taken into custody, and an arraignment date has not yet been announced. His indictment concludes the grand jury’s investigation of Bland’scase.
Approximately two dozen people demonstrated outside the Waller County Courthouse on Wednesday. The public outcry against the arrest and death of Bland last summer came at a time when police-related deaths of Black Americans including Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and Walter Scott placed a national spotlight on law enforcement’s use ofexcessive force.