In his letter of termination, Director Steve McGraw wrote, “I have determined that you have not rebutted the charges set out in the statement of charges of January 28, 2016. No cause has been presented to alter my preliminary decision. Therefore, it is now my decision that you be discharged from the Texas Department of Public Safety effective at 5:00p.m.”
Encinia signed the letter earlier today, but plans on appealing his termination, Raw Story reported. Since Bland’s death, Encinia had been on paid desk leave.
As we all know, last summer, Encinia pulled Bland over in a traffic stop for “making an improper lane change,” while she drove near the Prairie View A&M University campus. Three days after Bland’s arrest, she was found dead hanging from a plastic bag in her cell in the Waller County jail in Hempstead, Texas.
Despite the suspicion and public activism around Bland’s death, officials still labeled it a “suicide.”
However, the Texas Department of Public Safety terminated Encinia in lieu of current perjury charges handed down from a grand jury that believed that the trooper lied under oath about the circumstances of Bland’s arrest. In an affidavit, Encinia claimed that Bland had been “combative and uncooperative.
Yet, in a released video of Bland’s arrest, Encinia drew his gun on an unarmed Bland, screaming at her, “I will light you up!” Later on, Bland is heard “off camera screaming that he’s about to break her wrists and complaining that he knocked her head into the ground,” the AP notes. Encinia also claimed that he only removed Bland from her car to perform a “safer traffic investigation” and that when Bland was taken out of the car, she was violent. All claims that the grand jury didn’t believe.
While Encinia will face a trial for those charges in upcoming months, in the meantime, Encinia is without a job.
Bland’s sister, Sharon Cooper, told the AP his indictment was “bittersweet,” saying, “We have always felt from the onset, from our viewing of the dashcam video, is what happened to Sandy was largely impacted by the fatal encounter that she had with Officer Encinia.”
The Bland’s lawyer, Cannon Lambert, added that perjury charges aren’t enough. He believes that Encinia should have been indicted on more serious charges including assault, battery or abuse of his official power. “The public deserves accountability. If you don’t have public accountability, you don’t have public trust. I want the public to be able to trust the police,” said Cooper.
Currently, Bland’s family has filed a wrongful death suit against Encinia.
Perhaps, this “bittersweet” feeling the Bland family describes also comes from the fact that a similar grand jury infamously declined “to charge any sheriff’s officials or jailers in her death,” the AP noted. A move that has left many bewildered, especially given claims that Bland was not suicidal and accusations that the police may have killed her.
Bland’s tragic death garnered much attention, including those from the Black Lives Matter Movement who also coined the hasthag #SayHerName to raise awareness around Black women who have lost their lives to state violence or community violence.
If Encinia is found guilty of perjury, a misdemeanor, he could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.