WALLER COUNTY, Texas – An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for the Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland. Former Trooper Brian Encinia is expected to turn himself in.
Nearly six months after Bland's death, the Department of Public Safety trooper who arrested her lost his job after a grand jury indicted him on a charge of perjury.
It was a July traffic stop in Prairie View that thrust Bland and Waller County into the national spotlight. Trooper Brian Encinia pulled over the 28-year-old Bland because he said she changed lanes without using a turn signal.
After a tense exchange, Bland eventually was arrested and placed in the Waller County Jail, where three days later she hanged herself.
A special prosecutor said Wednesday afternoon that Encinia was indicted because of a "statement that he made in a probable cause affidavit that he filed in justifying the arrest and detention of Sandra Bland."
In a press conference outside the Waller County Courthouse, special prosecutors said the indictment was issued in reference to the reason Encinia removed Bland from her vehicle.
"Specifically that he stated to remove her from the vehicle, to further conduct a safer traffic investigation and the grand jury found that statement to be false," special prosecutor Shawn McDonald said.
Encinia faces up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine for the class A misdemeanor.
It was the only indictment issued in the case. Last month, the same grand jury decided not to indict anyone at the county jail in Bland's death.
"The grand jury is through investigating the case," McDonald said.
DPS announced it will begin termination proceedings to discharge him from the department. Under the process, Encinia is guaranteed an automatic appeal.
Protesters said Encinia is the one who escalated the situation. They said the perjury charge is a slap in face to Bland's family.
"He did more than perjure her. He assaulted her. He escalated the situation. Trooper Encinia needs to be fired immediately," protester Jinaki Muhammad said.
KPRC 2 spoke with Waller County Sheriff R. Glenn Smith, who said although he is relieved that no one in his jail was indicted, there was still a life lost.
"It is a still a personal matter to all of us that somebody died there. That is the second person to die in my jail. It is a serious situation and I really don't want another one. Whatever we can do to stop that, that is what we are going to do," Smith said.
Authorities said Bland used a plastic garbage bag as a noose to hang herself from an overhead partition inside her cell.
Waller County prosecutors said the medical examiner found no injuries consistent with struggle. There was, however, a bruise on Bland's neck consistent with suicide. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Science found Bland died as a result of suicide.
But her friends and family said the circumstances of Bland's death, and the arrest itself, just don't add up. The family and supporters said they want justice and for someone to be held accountable for her death.
A grand jury decided last month not to indict workers at the county jail on criminal charges surrounding Bland's death. While matters regarding grand jury hearings are sealed, according to state law, jurors are likely going to hear evidence from the investigation into Bland's arrest, which was recorded by a dashboard camera.