The family of Sandra Bland has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the state trooper who arrested her three days before she was found dead in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell.
The lawsuit also names the Texas Department of Public Safety, Waller County jail officers, Elsa Magnus and Oscar Prudente, and Waller County. Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the Southern District of Texas.
The family’s attorney, Cannon Lambert, said during a press conference that the family doesn’t “want to see this sort of thing happen again to another family.”
Bland, 28, was stopped on July 10 by Trooper Brian Encinia for failing to signal a lane change. After a verbal argument between Encinia and Bland, Encinia asked Bland to step out of the car. He then threatened her with a Taser, threw her to the ground and arrested her.
She was eventually charged with assault on a peace officer and taken to the Waller County Jail. Three days later she was found dead in her cell. Authorities say she hanged herself with a trash bag, but Bland’s family and friends have questioned the official story. Her death has been ruled a suicide.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Family Says They Are Seeking ‘Accountability’ Through the Lawsuit
Bland’s family said at a press conference that they are filing the lawsuit because, “we are looking for Waller County and the individuals involved in this situation to take accountability,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Read the full lawsuit below:
The family is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
2. The Lawsuit Alleges Encinia Committed Assault & Battery By Threatening to ‘Light’ Bland Up With a Taser
In the lawsuit, Encinia is accused of assault and battery and wrongful death.
Encinia, “demonstrated a deliberate indifference to and conscious disregard for the constitutional rights and safety of Sandra Bland.” As a result of Encinia’s actions, the lawsuit alleges Bland, “suffered substantial injuries, including but not limited to physical injury, pain and suffering, mental anguish, damages and, ultimately, death.”
The family claims in the lawsuit that Encinia committed assault and battery when he pointed his Taser at her and said “I will light you up,” while she sat in her vehicle.
3. Bland’s Family Says Encinia Has a History of ‘Escalating Encounters With the Public’
According to the lawsuit, the Texas Department of Public Safety “knew or should have known that Defendant Brian Encinia exhibited a pattern of escalating encounters with the public.”
Encinia’s personnel file was recently released and showed he was disciplined for an unspecified incident at a school in Austin last year. He was given written counseling for the “unprofessional conduct,” according to the file. Details of the incident haven’t been released.
“In the future, Trooper Encinia should conduct himself at all times in a manner that will reflect well on himself, the Department, and the state of Texas,” according to a performance evaluation included in the file.
4. The Jailers Are Accused of Failing to Properly Monitor Bland & Not Providing Medical Treatment When She Was Found in Her Cell
The lawsuit also accused two Waller County Jail officers, Elsa Magnus and Oscar Prudente, of failing to properly monitor Bland during her time in the jail. They are also accused of failing to provide her medical treatment after she was found injured in her cell.
The Texas Jail Commission cited the jail for failing to adequately monitor Bland after conducting an investigation in the days after her death.
5. Encinia Remains on Paid Desk Duty While the Investigation Is Completed
A preliminary investigation found that Encinia violated the Texas Department of Public Safety’s traffic stop and courtesy procedures during the stop that led to Bland’s arrest and death. Her death and the traffic stop are being investigated by the Texas Rangers with assistance from the FBI. Encinia was placed on paid desk duty until the investigation is completed.
The attorney for Bland’s family, Cannon Lambert, said during a press conference that Encinia should be fired.