Charges have been dropped against Brian Encinia, the former state trooper who violently arrested Sandra Bland three days before she died in a Texas jail cell.
Encinia was charged with perjury in January 2016 for allegedly lying on an affidavit about his interaction with Bland, and officially fired two months later. A Texas Department of Public Safety investigation previously found that Encinia violated departmental policy (DPS) when he stopped Bland for not signaling a lane change, escalated the situation by threatening to use his stun gun on her for smoking a cigarette and pulled her from the car and slammed her on the ground.
As Colorlines previously reported:
On July 13, 2015, Sandra Bland was found dead in a Waller County (Texas) jail cell. The official story is that she allegedly used a plastic bag to hang herself. Those who knew the 28-year-old Black woman categorically rejected the idea of suicide, and a dashcam video that showed Texas trooper Brian Encinia violently arresting her prompted the nation to ask: #WhatHappenedToSandraBland?
A grand jury declined to indict any of the staff at the jail where Bland died, despite evidence that they did not follow protocol in checking on her.
Chicago Tribune reports that papers filed yesterday (June 28) at the Waller County Courthouse show that the special prosecutors assigned to the case dropped the charge. If the case had gone to trial, Encinia could have been sentenced to up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The charge was dropped in exchange for Encinia surrendering his Texas Commission on Law Enforcement license and agreeing to never work in law enforcment again.
Per the Los Angeles Times, special prosecutors Pheobe Smith and Chad Dick called the decision “the best outcome” in a statment. “We understand that this is far from a perfect solution, and that many people will feel that this is an inadequate punishment, while others feel that charges should have never been filed,” they said. “This is a solution that will guarantee that Mr. Encinia will never be a licensed law enforcement officer again.”
Encinia’s attorney, Chip Lewis, told Chicago Tribune that dropping the charges was a good decision. “My client was just a scapegoat. It was an answer to the public pressure over a young lady’s death. It wasn’t Mr. Encinia’s fault.”
Bland family attorney said that the family was not notified about the decision, and that dropping the perjury charge ultimately undermines the system. “You cannot expect communities to feel confident with the system if officers are caught lying in written documents and are not held accountable,” he told the Tribune. “The notion that the special prosecutor would make a decision like this in the face of the kind of case this is without communicating with the family is deplorable.”
Last September, Bland’s family settled a civil suit with the Waller County jail where Bland died for $1.9 million.