Sister of Sandra Bland: Charge against trooper ‘bittersweet’

Published 9:57 am Thursday, January 7, 2016

HEMPSTEAD, Texas — The indictment and expected firing of the Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, a black woman who later died in jail, are “bittersweet” for her sister.

Sharon Cooper told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she sees the perjury charge against Trooper Brian Encinia as long overdue, but also that the charge doesn’t come close to equaling her family’s loss. Bland was found hanging in her jail cell three days after her arrest, in what authorities have ruled a suicide.

Cooper said what happened to her sister was “largely impacted” by the encounter with Encinia.

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“It could easily have been avoided,” she said.

Encinia was indicted Wednesday on allegations that he lied when he claimed in an affidavit that Bland was “combative and uncooperative” after he pulled her over during a July traffic stop and ordered her out of her car. The grand jury identified that affidavit in charging Encinia with perjury, special prosecutor Shawn McDonald said Wednesday night.

Hours after the indictment, the Texas Department of Public Safety said it would “begin termination proceedings” against Encinia, who has been on paid desk duty since Bland was found dead in her cell.

Encinia was not immediately taken into custody, and an arraignment date has not yet been announced. Encinia could not immediately be reached for comment; a cellphone number for him was no longer working.

Bland’s arrest and death provoked national outrage and drew the attention of the Black Lives Matter movement. Protesters questioned officials’ assertion that Bland had committed suicide and linked her to other black suspects who were killed in confrontations with police or died in police custody, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.