On July 10, 2015, in Waller County, Texas, about 50 miles northwest of Houston, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia shouted, “I will light you up!” while he aimed a Taser into the driver’s-side window of a car he had pulled over. The driver was Sandra Bland. Encinia would arrest Bland at the scene, and three days later, Bland would be found dead in a Waller County jail, her death ruled a suicide.
But now, almost four years after the incident, Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV, in partnership with Investigative Network, has released footage from Bland’s cellphone that shows a different perspective of her interaction with Encinia. No one, including Bland’s family or their attorney, had seen the footage before, and now they’re asking officials to reopen the criminal case against Encinia.
Brian Collister is founder of the nonprofit Investigative Network, and says he got the footage through the Texas Department of Public Safety, or DPS. It was a lengthy process because he had to wait for the resolution of the various lawsuits against Encinia. The trooper faced criminal charges, was indicted for perjury and also appealed his firing from DPS.
“While that was up in the air, you had a federal lawsuit against Encinia and DPS and Waller County, filed by Sandra’s mother,” Collister says. “When all of that was done, I made a request of the video.”
Bland’s family says this new video shows that Encinia knew Bland was not holding a weapon or threatened his safety, which he claimed.
“They all looked at it and said, ‘This completely proves that he knew what was in her hand,’” Collister says.
As a result, he says the family wants to reopen the criminal case to prove Encinia lied under oath. In the first criminal case against him, prosecutors dropped perjury charges after Encinia agreed to relinquish his law enforcement license.
But Collister says it’s unclear whether it’s possible to reopen the criminal case. He says the family could try to reopen the civil case on the grounds that DPS withheld the cellphone video evidence. But he says they might have to go to the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen the criminal case.
Collister says DPS claims it turned over all evidence to Bland’s family’s attorney, but the Texas Attorney General’s office, which represents DPS in legal matters, has not commented on this new development.
Collister says the footage of Sandra Bland’s arrest from her cellphone camera is “chilling.”
“It is literally as though you are seeing that confrontation through Sandra Bland’s eyes,” Collister says. “It’s an unbelievable perspective.”
He says the video has helped reignite public discussion about abusive behavior by law enforcement officers.
Written by Caroline Covington.