This tweet: “So officer who arrested #SandraBland has been charged for lying in police report yet we’re supposed to believe what was said abt [sic] her death..” by Tara Dowdell @MsTaraDowdell, and many others, are the typical responses to the news about Sandra Bland’s case.
The police officer who arrested Sandra Bland after a contentious traffic stop last summer, was fired Wednesday after being charged with perjury, for allegedly lying about his confrontation with the black woman who died three days later in jail.
Trooper Brian Encinia claimed in an affidavit that Bland was “combative and uncooperative” after he pulled her over and ordered her out of her car. The grand jury identified that affidavit in charging Encinia with perjury, special prosecutor Shawn McDonald said Wednesday night.
Bland’s arrest and death – which authorities ruled a suicide – provoked national outrage and drew the attention of the Black Lives Matter movement. Protesters linked Bland to other black suspects who were killed in confrontations with police or died in police custody, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
For those who have forgotten or not seen the video of the stop, Encinia draws his stun gun and tells Bland, “I will light you up!” She can later be heard off-camera screaming that he’s about to break her wrists and complaining that he knocked her head into the ground.
Encinia’s affidavit stated he “removed her from her vehicle to further conduct a safer traffic investigation”, but grand jurors “found that statement to be false”, said McDonald, one of five special prosecutors appointed to investigate.
Bland was taken to the Waller County jail in Hempstead, about 50 miles northwest of Houston. Three days later, she was found hanging from a jail cell partition with a plastic garbage bag around her neck. The grand jury has already declined to charge any sheriff’s officials or jailers in her death.
The perjury carries a maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 [£2.7k] fine. Encinia was not immediately taken into custody, and an indictment date has not yet been announced.
About two dozen protesters attended the news conference on 6 January where the indictment was announced. One protester’s sign read, “Legalize black skin”.
Speaking afterward, one protester, Jinaki Muhammad, called the crime charge “a slap in the face to the Bland family”.
Encinia also faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bland’s family. Attorneys for Bland’s family did not immediately returned messages seeking comment about the indictment.
Photo credit: YouTube