So it has happened once again. Another cop, involved in the death of a black person, walks free.
Brian T. Encinia, a Texas trooper, who arrested Sandra Bland — the black woman who was found three days later hanging in her cell in 2015 and whose name became a rallying cry during protests — has been cleared of the only criminal charge he faced in the case.
Encinia was indicted last year by a Waller County grand jury on a perjury charge regarding his arrest of Bland. The trooper said he ordered Bland to get out of her vehicle to conduct a safe traffic stop. However, the grand jury later found the statement to be false saying video evidence showed Encinia physically remove Bland from her car, threatening her with a Taser and saying “I will light you up” — just because she refused to put out her cigarette. He was also heard saying he didn’t know what charges he should file.
Encinia was disciplined by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for his “unprofessional conduct” leading to Bland’s arrest and was given counseling. He was later evaluated as being “competent.”
After the he was charged, the trooper was fired from the Department of Public Safety. The perjury charge for a false statement could have led to a year in jail and a fine.
However, on Wednesday, the perjury charge against Encinia was dismissed by State District Judge Albert McCaig Jr. after special prosecutors told the trooper that his charged will be dropped if he agreed to turn over his police credentials and sign a statement vowing never to look for a job in a law enforcement agency in Texas or anywhere else.
He also agreed never to seek to have his criminal record sealed or erased. If he violates his agreement, the state can refile the charges against him.
Cannon Lambert, the lawyer representing Bland, said the family was “completely blindsided” by the sudden dismissal of charges. He said Bland’s family had met with special prosecutors on Tuesday who agreed to go to trial with the case.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” he said.
Chip Lewis, Encinia’s lawyer, said the trooper received death threats after he was criminally charged.
“He was never was going to be a police officer after this saga,” Lewis said. “He cares too much about his family and the law enforcement community as a whole. There would be a [large] target on his back and he's not going to do that.”
So it all happened in favor of Encinia by the justice system helping him get out of a job he was no longer willing to continue.
Bland’s sister, Shante Needham, said her sister was an outspoken advocate for justice so the dismissal of perjury charges "just adds more insult to an already open wound."
“I definitely think they need to start holding these officers accountable,” she said. “If you start holding them accountable and they're losing their jobs, losing their pensions, serving jail time, I'm willing to bet all of this foolishness will stop.”
Activist Hannah Bonham said the Encinia case has disappointed Bland’s supporters.
“The manner in which this case has been carried out has seemed intended to cause the greatest possible psychological harm to Sandra Bland's family and supporters,” she said.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters