Moral Low Ground


Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia Indicted for Perjury in Sandra Bland Arrest


The Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old Black Lives Matter activist who was later found dead in a jail cell, has surrendered to police after being indicted for perjury.

ABC News reports Brian Encinia, 30, turned himself in on Thursday, a day after he was indicted by a grand jury in Hempstead, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Houston, for allegedly lying about the July traffic stop that led to Bland’s death.

The grand jury said it did not believe Encinia’s claim in a written statement that he removed Bland—who was stopped for allegedly failing to signal a lane change—from her vehicle in order to conduct a safer traffic investigation. Police dashboard camera footage of the incident shows Encinia dragging Bland from her car after she refused to put out a cigarette. The trooper threatened Bland with a stun gun, saying, “I will light you up!”

“You just slammed my head into the ground! Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear! You slammed me into the ground and everything,” an incredulous Bland is heard saying as she is handcuffed on the ground.

When Bland told Encinia that she suffered from epilepsy, the trooper replied, “good.”

Encinia claimed he attempted to de-escalate the situation and that Bland, who was described as “argumentative and uncooperative,” had kicked him and had tried to escape.

Three days after her arrest, Bland was found hanging in a cell in the Waller County Jail from a noose made of a trash bag. Her death was ruled a suicide by local medical examiners, but relatives said they did not believe she would kill herself despite claims by Bland that she suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Larkin Eakin, Encinia’s lawyer, said that his client would plead not guilty to the perjury charge.

“He was surprised obviously, because he does not feel anything was misleading in his report,” Larkin told the Houston Chronicle.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced in a Wednesday night press release that it was beginning termination proceedings against Encinia in the wake of his indictment.

The perjury charge against Encinia is a Class A misdemeanor carrying a possible maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Bland’s family, as well as many activists and advocates, called the perjury charge a “slap on the wrist.”

“There is no one who believes this is right for the crime,” Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, said at a news conference in Chicago. “No one should be OK with this.”

“What I’m looking for is for the accountability to be placed where it needs to be,” Reed-Veal told the Chronicle. “That’s what I want to see.”

Cannon Lambert, a Chicago attorney representing Bland’s relatives, told the Chronicle that the family still has unanswered questions.

“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,” Lambert said. “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.”

“Why didn’t they charge him with false arrest?” Lambert continued. “The whole arrest was predicated on a phantom kick—why didn’t they charge him with abuse of police power—all he had to do was give her the warning.”

Last month the same grand jury declined to indict Bland’s jailers in connection with her death.

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