Skip to main content

Trooper in Sandra Bland Case Set for Arraignment

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia's arraignment on a perjury charge related to his arrest of Sandra Bland will be held in March, the Waller County District Clerk's office confirmed.

The January 2016 booking photo (left) of Brian Encinia, the DPS trooper who pulled over and arrested Sandra Bland.

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia has a March 22 arraignment set for a perjury charge related to his arrest of Sandra Bland, the Waller County District Clerk's office confirmed.

Encinia's attorney says he will plead not guilty.

Encinia stopped Bland near the Prairie View A&M University campus on July 10 for failing to properly signal a lane change. After a heated argument, the trooper arrested Bland for assaulting a public servant. Bland was found hanged in her Waller County jail cell three days later. Her death has been ruled a suicide.

A Waller County grand jury indicted Encinia in January after concluding there was evidence he lied about the circumstances under which Bland exited her car. If convicted of the misdemeanor perjury charge, Encinia could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. His case will be heard in the 506th District Court in Waller County.

Bland's arrest and subsequent death drew national attention, in part due to the video of the traffic stop recorded by a camera inside Encinia's patrol car. In the video, Encinia can be seen opening Bland's driver's side door and reaching in for her. She refuses to come out and the trooper threatens to use a Taser on her.

But in Encinia's report, he wrote: "I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation." In the indictment, the grand jury said Encinia arrested Bland because he was angry that she would not put out her cigarette, a request the trooper made of her during the stop.

Immediately following the indictment, DPS said it would begin the processes of firing Encinia.

Larkin Eakin Jr., Encinia's attorney for his criminal case, said the trooper is appealing his termination. If the department moves forward with firing the trooper and that decision is upheld by the Public Safety Commission, which oversees DPS, Encinia has the option to make a final appeal in state district court.

Separately, Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, is suing Encinia in federal court. She alleges in a wrongful death suit that Encinia assaulted and battered her daughter. Reed-Veal, in an amended complaint, is also suing DPS, Waller County and 12 of the county's employees.

Encinia and his department's attorney in the federal case have asked the court to suspend all activity until his criminal case is completed. Their attorney also has a motion for dismissal on the table.

Texas Assistant Attorney General Seth Byron Dennis said in court papers that the investigative reports and depositions that would surface in such a lawsuit "would interfere with Trooper Encinia’s ability to receive a fair trial in the state criminal matter...Given the media coverage of this case, public dissemination of reports could influence jurors."

Bland family attorney Cannon Lambert is pursuing the Texas Rangers' report on the arrest so he can depose witnesses and others involved in the investigation. The report was withheld as the grand jury investigated the circumstances around Bland's death.

With the grand jury's deliberations concluded, Lambert says he wants the report immediately.

"Assuming that the court agrees with us that we should be provided the Ranger report, we would certainly oppose a stay" of the family's lawsuit, Lambert told the Texas Tribune. "We wish to bring a fair and just resolution to this matter for the family. It is not fair or just that simply because Encinia was charged with a misdemeanor, Sandy's family should be put on the back burner."

Texans need truth. Help us report it.

Yes, I'll donate today

Explore related story topics

Courts Criminal justice Sandra Bland