The family of a Black woman who died in a Texas jail cell said on Thursday a misdemeanor perjury charge against the trooper who pulled her over in a traffic stop is not enough and he should be indicted for assault, battery and false arrest.
State Trooper Brian Encinia was indicted on Wednesday by a grand jury in Waller County, outside of Houston, on suspicion of lying in a police report about why he pulled Sandra Bland out of her car in July 2015. Bland died three days later in a Waller County jail cell of an apparent hanging.
The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. After the indictment was handed down, the Texas Department of Public Safety said it would fire Encinia.
“There is no one who believes this is right for the crime,” Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, said at a news conference in Chicago. “No one should be OK with this.”
The case was one of many in recent months that has raised questions about racial bias in U.S. policing. Bland’s family has questioned reports of her suicide.
Reed-Veal said she did not trust local prosecutors and authorities, adding they had not given the family information on the grand jury process or returned Bland’s personal items to them.
Encinia has not spoken about the indictment.
Bland was stopped on July 10 by Encinia for failing to signal a lane change in Prairie View, about 50 miles northwest of Houston.
A prosecutor said Encinia reported he pulled Bland out of the car to investigate the traffic violation.
The traffic stop escalated into a verbal altercation after Encinia asked Bland to put out a cigarette and she refused. A dashcam video of the incident showed Encinia brandishing what appeared to be a Taser and telling Bland, “I will light you up.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety faulted Encinia for his conduct during the traffic stop. The video showed him shouting at Bland and failing to answer her when she asked numerous times why she was being arrested.
Bland was charged with assaulting an officer, a felony, and critics said her race was an underlying factor in the traffic stop and the way in which the trooper allowed the confrontation to escalate.
Bland was found dead in her cell three days later with a trash bag around her neck. Her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Local officials have since claimed that she was not mistreated in jail.