Last month, a Texas grand jury decided not to bring any charges against Waller County Jail staff in connection with Sandra Bland’s death.
Bland, an African-American women was pulled over for an improper lane change last July. She was arrested, and found hanged in her cell three days later.
Officials ruled her death a suicide. Wednesday, the same grand jury met again. This time, they decided to indict the arresting state trooper, Brian Encinia, on charges of perjury.
Houston Chronicle reporter St. John Barned-Smith has been following the Sandra Bland case. He says the grand jury indictment indicated they didn’t believe part of the incident account Encinia gave on the arrest affidavit.
Encinia said he “pulled Bland out of her car to further … the traffic stop.” The grand jury has yet to find fault with the death of Bland.
The maximum sentence Encinia could face under the Class A misdemeanor charge is up to a year in jail, a fine of no more than a $4,000, or some combination of both.
Typically, Smith says, grand juries don’t review Class A misdemeanor cases, but they took the case since a police officer was involved.
Shortly after the indictment, the Texas Department of Public Safety said it would “begin termination proceedings” against Encinia. He has been on desk duty since her death. No other administrative action has been taken.
“When I spoke to DPS previously they said the way these matters typically work is they wait until the criminal proceedings, if there are any, before they take any administrative action,” Smith says. “This was just how they typically handle these type of situations.”
Smith says the dashboard camera of Bland’s arrest has garnered a lot of attention and it’s one of the reasons her case has moved forward so quickly.
Bland’s family, however, isn’t satisfied with the indictment on perjury charges. Smith says he spoke to their lawyer recently, as well as Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal.
“Their lawyer said, with the news of the indictment, he wanted to know why the Grand Jury didn’t try to indict Encinia for battery when he tried to pull Bland out of the car,” Smith says.
Bland’s mother told Smith that the whole thing “felt like a slap on the wrist.”
“She wanted real accountability for the people involved,” Smith says. “She was not happy.”