Brian Encinia, 30, has been fired. He is charged with a class A misdemeanor, which carries a possible sentence of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
A grand jury indicted Encinia on January 6, nearly six months after Bland was arrested. The 28-year-old Illinois woman died days after the traffic stop in a Waller County jail cell.
Bland was held in the county jail until the morning of July 13, 2015, when she was found dead in her cell. Authorities say Bland killed herself, but her family and friends said they didn’t think she would do that. She was about to start her dream job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M, and had just moved from Illinois to Texas to do so.
Bland’s family has filed a federal lawsuit against Encinia, the state Department of Public Safety, Waller County and two jail officials.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Is Accused of Lying in His Incident Report on the Traffic Stop
Encinia is accused of making a false statement in his incident report on the traffic stop and Bland’s arrest, the Houston Chronicle reports.
“They just didn’t believe it … a warrant will be issued and we’ll go from there,” special prosecutor Darrell Jordan told the newspaper.
Encinia couldn’t immediately be reached for comment and it is not yet known if he has hired an attorney. He was placed on administrative duty following the June 2015 incident.
In the police report, Encinia says Bland was “combative and uncooperative” after he stopped her Hyundai Azera with Illinois plates at about 4:30 p.m. Encinia says he made “numerous commands” that Bland exit the vehicle to”further conduct a safe traffic investigation. Bland was removed from the car but became more combative. Bland was placed in handcuffs for officer safety. Bland began swinging her elbows at me and then kicked my right leg in the shine.”
Encinia said he suffered pain in his right leg and small cuts on his right hand. He said “force was used to subdue Bland to the ground to which Bland continued to fight.”
The dashcam video also recorded a phone conversation Encinia had with a supervisor.
“I tried to de-escalate her, and it wasn’t working at all,” Encinia says. “I put the Taser away, I tried talking to her, trying to calm her down, and that was not working. … I’m trying to get her detained … just calm her down, saying’stop throwing your arms,’ what not. She never swung at me, (she was) just flailing, stomping around. And that’s enough, that’s when I detained her.”
2. The Video Shows Encinia Pulling Bland From Her Car & Threatening to ‘Light’ Her Up
The nearly hourlong video starts with the end of an unrelated traffic stop. Then, Encinia makes a U-turn and ends up behind Bland. Her car can be seen in the left-hand lane of two lanes as Encinia’s patrol car approaches her. Bland then moves from the left lane into the right lane, and Encinia pulls her over.
Encinia approaches the vehicle and says to Bland, “Hello mam,” to which she replies “hi.” He says, “the reason for your stop is you failed to signal a lane change, got your driver’s license and insurance with you?” and then asks her, “what’s wrong?”
After a few seconds of silence, he asks her, “how long have you been in Texas?” and she replies she got there yesterday. He then returns to his car after asking her to “give him a few minutes.”
Encinia then exits his his vehicle and approaches the driver’s side door of Bland’s car. He asks her “you OK?” and she replies “I’m waiting on you, this is your job.” Encinia then says, “you seem very irritated,” and Bland replies, “I am, I really I am. I don’t know what I’m getting a ticket for, you were speeding up, tailing me, I move over and you stop me. So, yeah I am a little irritated, but that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so give me a ticket.”
Encinia says, “are you done?” and Bland replies, “you asked me what was wrong and I told you, so now I’m done yeah.” He then asks her to put out her cigarette and she replies, “I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette.” He then says, “well you can step out of the car now,” and Bland replies, “I don’t have to step out.” He, more forcefully, says, “step out of the car,” and then opens her door, repeating, “step out of the car.”
Bland asks, “I’m getting removed for a failure to signal?” He replies, “I’m giving you a lawful order,” and after she says she’s going to call her lawyer, he says “I’m going to yank you out of here.” Bland says, “Oh, you’re going to yank me out of my car, OK.” As they continue to back and forth, he calls for backup and then yells at her as she asks what she’s being arrested for, “Get out of the car!” and pulls what appears to be his Taser out, saying “I will light you up.” She then exits the vehicle, still talking to him as she walks away.
They then move out of camera range, and continue to argue. She is holding her phone and he yells at her repeatedly to put her phone down. They continue to argue, and a struggle ensues.
As she is being taken into custody, Bland says, “I cannot wait til we get to court.”
A bystander’s video (watch it above) of the arrest was previously posted onto YouTube. It shows several police officers standing over Bland while she is on the ground, arguing with them about why they’re being so rough. At one point, she can be heard saying, “You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that?” She also thanks the man recording the incident for filming as she is led to a police cruiser.
3. A Preliminary Investigation Found Encinia Violated Traffic Stop & Courtesy Protocols
A preliminary investigation found Encinia violated the Texas Department of Public Safety’s traffic stop and courtesy procedures during the stop, which was for an improper lane change.
“Regardless of the situation, the DPS state trooper has an obligation to exhibit professionalism and be courteous,” DPS Director Steve McCraw told the Washington Post. “That did not happen in this situation.”
4. He Became a State Trooper in January 2014
Encinia became a state trooper with the Department of Public Safety in January 2014, according to the Dallas Morning News.
He is a graduate of Texas A&M University. He previously worked at Blue Bell Creameries and was a district chief of the Brenham Fire Department, according to his now-deleted LinkedIn profile.
He was an ingredient processing supervisor at Blue Bell from 2008 until 2014, and previously was a volunteer chief in the Brenham Fire Department from 2009 to 2013. He graduated from Texas A&M in 2008 with a degree in agricultural leadership and development, the same year Bland graduated from Prairie View A&M.
“He was an excellent firefighter,” Brenham Fire Chief Ricky Boeker told the Wall Street Journal. “He was well liked, and we did not have any issues with him.”
5. No Jail Staff Were Indicted in Connection With Bland’s Death
The Waller County District Attorney investigated Bland’s deaths a homicide, though he still said all indications point to it being a suicide.
He presented evidence to a grand jury, which declined to indict jail staff on any charges iN December.
The county Sheriff’s Office says that Bland was found in her cell Monday morning, three days after her arrest. She was “not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release. Police say the officer who found her started CPR, and EMS was called. She was pronounced dead a short time later.
An autopsy found her cause of death to be suicide by hanging.
Officials said Bland used a trash bag to hang herself from a partition separating the bed area and the bathroom, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The district attorney says he had no information to suspect foul play. Officials also said video footage did not show anyone entering the cell. Waller County officials released the video from inside the jail, showing the outside of her cell prior to her death. Watch that video below:
She had last been seen by guards at 7 a.m., and she talked to them by intercom at 8 a.m. when she was given breakfast.
The jail has been cited by the Texas Jail Commission for failing to properly monitor Bland.
The case was investigated by the Texas Rangers and the FBI assisted.