“How did switching lanes with no signal turn into all of this?”
(Question left on a voicemail by Sandra Bland during a call from the jail house.)
On July 10, 2015, Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia stopped Sandra Bland for failure to signal a lane change. Sandra was 28-years old. She was in Texas to start a job on August 3, 2015 as a summer program associate with Prairie View A&M University in Waller County, Texas.
Upon returning to Sandra’s car with citations for her to sign, Encinia asked Sandra to put out her cigarette. When Sandra asked Encinia why she would need to put out her cigarette in her own car, Encinia ordered Sandra out of her car, and taking out his stun gun, threatened to “light” her up if she did not comply. Encinia accused Sandra of assaulting him and she was taken to jail.
On July 13, 2015, Sandra was found dead in her jail cell. She was found hung with a plastic trash bag around her neck, from a partition that was shorter or about the same height as Sandra, who was 6 feet tall.
In December 2015, a grand jury declined to indict anyone in connection with Sandra’s death. In January 2016, a grand jury indicted Brian Encinia (the arresting officer) for perjury. The grand jury did not believe Encinia’s statement that he wanted Sandra removed from her car so he could conduct a safer traffic investigation. The Texas Department of Public Safety terminated Encinia for violating department standards.
Encinia is free on a $2,500 bond. If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
A Tangled Web is Weaved
In August 2015, Sandra’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. They demanded investigative records in the case. A federal judge in Houston set January 23, 2017 for the case to go to trial.