In 2015, Sandra Bland’s jail cell suicide made national headlines. The 28-year-old African-American woman from Chicago was arrested in rural Texas after a traffic stop and hanged herself in her jail cell three days later. Now it turns out Bland videoed the traffic stop herself.
A dashcam video from the arresting trooper’s vehicle was released just a few days after Bland’s demise, but law enforcement officials never publicized the fact that Bland had filmed her own version of the encounter in the 39-second cellphone video.
Undercutting the Trooper’s Safety Claim
Trooper Brian Encinia, the arresting officer, said in multiple interviews with the Texas Department of Public Safety that his safety was in jeopardy “more than one time” in his encounter with Bland. The cellphone video seriously undercuts his claim of safety fears.
Encinia pulled over Bland’s car when she turned without signaling. The two soon got into an argument after Encinia told Bland to put out her cigarette, and the trooper ordered the woman out of her car. Encinia is heard telling her to “get off the phone,” to which Bland responds that she wasn’t on the phone but had a right to record.
He then tells her twice to put her phone down. The trooper tried to pull Bland out of her car, but she resisted. Encinia also shoved his Taser toward Bland, telling her he “will light you up” if she doesn’t get out of the car. Bland then does get out of her car, and her video ends. Bland began shouting profanities, and Encinia handcuffed her.
Perjury Charge Dismissed
Grand jurors later accused Encinia of making a false statement when he said he removed Bland from her vehicle so that conducting a traffic investigation was safer. He was indicted for perjury, but the charge – the sole criminal charge in this case – was dismissed by prosecutors after Encinia agreed never to work in the law enforcement field again.
At the time, the prosecutors believed that banning Encinia from police work was their best option because they didn’t know whether a jury would convict him on the perjury charge.
Civil Rights Advocate
Bland was a longtime civil rights advocate. Just two months before her July 2015 death, she posted a Facebook video in which she spoke about police brutality, noting “Black lives matter.” In her video, she says, “In the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed.” While that was not her exact fate, it was eerily close. Her death is considered a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sandra Bland Act of 2017
Bland’s death led to the creation of the Sandra Bland Act, signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in 2017. The act mandates that county jails send people with substance abuse or mental health issues for treatment, requires independent law enforcement to investigate all jail deaths and gives defendants with a mental illness or intellectual impairment a simpler way to receive a personal bond. Under the Act, law enforcement officers receive de-escalation training to prevent routine traffic stops and similar situations from becoming significant issues.
Inmates have the right not to be abused. If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment in jail or prison, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.