The Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, 28, during a routine traffic stop in July 2015, was indicted for perjury charges by a grand jury on Wednesday, and will be fired by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Trooper Brian Encinia was charged with perjury for lying about his confrontation with Bland when he pulled her over for allegedly changing lanes improperly on July 10, 2015. Three days after she was arrested by Encinia during the stop, Bland was found dead in her jail cell.
As previously reported, the questionable circumstances surrounding Bland’s death, which was initially ruled a suicide, prompted investigations by agencies such as the Waller County District Attorney’s Office, The Texas Ranger Division of the state’s DPS and the FBI.
Special prosecutor Shawn McDonald said Wednesday that “the indictment was issued in reference to the reasoning” that Encinia removed Bland from her vehicle.
While Encinia’s affidavit claimed Bland was “combative and uncooperative,” and that he removed her “from her vehicle to further conduct a safer traffic investigation,” McDonald said grand jurors “found that statement to be false.”
The Texas DPS responded to the news of the indictment by pledging to “begin termination proceedings” against Encinia, who has been on “paid desk duty” for the last six months.
The perjury charge is classified as a “Class A misdemeanor,” and carries a possible penalty of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The grand jury declined to indict any of the jailers in connection with Bland’s death, upholding the ruling that her death was a suicide.
In response, Bland’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming that the Waller County officials have “failed to keep them informed” about the progress of the case, and calling it a “sham of a process.”
The Dashcam video that was initially released by DPS appeared to show the confrontation between Bland and Encinia escalating when he told her to put out a cigarette, and she refused. He proceeded to open her car door, and at one point in the footage, he held out his Taser at her and said, “I will light you up if you don’t get out of this car.”
Following multiple accusations that the initial video was edited and manipulated, the original copy was pulled down and replaced with a video that was three minutes shorter. Texas DPS spokesman Tom Vinger claimed that the original video was not edited and insisted that uploading errors were to blame for any anomalies that appeared.