Death Threats and a Not Guilty Plea for Trooper in Sandra Bland Arrest

Yesterday, former Texas state trooper Brian Encinia pled not guilty to perjury, a charge stemming from his role in the arrest of Sandra Bland in Waller County last summer. According to the Los Angeles Times, Encinia's lawyer said his client "has received a steady stream of threatening calls and letters" since Bland's in-custody death, which sparked nationwide protests over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement agencies.

Bland was found hanging in her cell, three days after she was arrested when a traffic stop turned confrontational. Dash cam footage shows Encinia attempted to physically pull the 28-year-old African-American woman from her car and threatened to use a taser on her. She was pulled over for allegedly failing to signal a lane change.  

Bland's death was ruled a suicide. Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating the circumstances of her in-custody death. In December, a Waller County grand jury declined to charge officials in the Waller County Jail or the Waller County Sheriff's Office. Two weeks later, the same grand jury indicted Encinia for perjury because of statements he made in his report of the arrest about pulling Bland out of her vehicle to "further conduct a safe traffic investigation." Encinia was fired earlier this month.

In the affidavit for Bland's arrest, Encinia wrote that Bland "became combative and uncooperative" and refused to leave her car. Encinia wrote that Bland then "was removed" from the car, but became "more combative," so he handcuffed her. According to Encinia, Bland began swinging her elbows and kicked Encinia in the shin, and "force was used to subdue Bland to the ground" as she continued to "fight back." However, dash cam footage contradicts Encinia's account. If convicted, he could face a $4,000 fine and a year in jail.

Bland's mother, meanwhile, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against Waller County law enforcement organizations and Encinia. That case is set to go to trial in January 2017. 
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Leif Reigstad