Protesters at Texas Courthouse as Sandra Bland Arresting Officer Pleaded Not Guilty

Demonstrators protest outside the courthouse after former Texas state trooper Brian Encinia's arraignment hearing Tuesday, March 22, 2016, in Hempstead, Texas. Encinia, who arrested Sandra Bland, was arraigned on a misdemeanor perjury charge. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Protesters were outside the Waller County, Texas courthouse when Brian Encinia, a former Texas state trooper, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor court of perjury in connection with the arrest of Sandra Bland.

On Tuesday, Encinia, who has been fired from his position at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), appeared in district court Judge Albert M. McCaig, Jr.’s courtroom as protesters were shouting “Say Her Name” and other chants outside.

Breitbart Texas previously reported that Trooper Encinia stopped Bland in July 2015 after she ran a stop sign in front of him and then changed lanes without signaling as his vehicle approached hers. He told her the reason for the stop was an improper lane change and said he was about to give her a warning ticket, according to the 52-minute dashcam video released by the Texas DPS.

The situation with the officer escalated after Bland refused to put out a cigarette per the officer’s instructions. At one point Encinia told the young woman that he would “Light” her up with a Taser. Bland’s death in the jail was ruled a suicide by a medical examiner. Her family had not posted the $5,000 bond for her release and she had been in jail for three days.

The Texas incident has received national media exposure, and Black Lives Matter activists, the New Black Panthers, and other activists have led protests at the Waller County jail. Breitbart Texas was there and reported when a group of armed members of the New Black Panther Party marched on the Waller County Jail chanting “The revolution is on… Off the pigs,” and “Oink Oink… Bang Bang!”

Breitbart Texas was also at the Waller County jail for protests on another occasion and reported when a protester told reporters and others present, that all white people should be killed. She also called white people and reporters, “terrorists.” Her orders – “go back into the cave where you came from.”

Breitbart Texas took video at a protest that became violent after a confrontation broke out between some of the protesters and Waller County Sheriff’s Office deputies. A group of people with the #BlackLivesMatter rally barged into the lobby of the sheriff’s office and jail and began shouting and pounding on windows and doors. The group had to be forcibly removed by deputies.

Protesters at the Waller County courthouse on Tuesday were peaceful as they shouted chants and held signs saying “Justice for Sandra Bland,” and “What Happened to Sandra Bland?”

As reported by Breitbart Texas in early January, Officer Encinia was indicted for perjury relating to statements that he made in an affidavit. At issue are statements regarding that he removed Bland from her vehicle in order to conduct a safer traffic investigation.

The grand jury met on several occasions over a period of months after Encinia arrested Bland. Darrell Jordan, a special prosecutor on the case told Breitbart Texas on the day the indictment came down, that the grand jury had been meeting since August 2015. They met multiple times and discussed the trooper, the sheriff and the jailers. The misdemeanor perjury charge, a Class A misdemeanor, was the only indictment returned by the grand jury. The grand jury reported in December that no indictments would be handed down against the sheriff or his staff, as reported by Breitbart Texas.

Immediately after Encinia was indicted, the DPS announced that the officer would be fired.

After Encinia’s indictment in January, Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith sounded sad when talking to Breitbart Texas about the death of Bland in his custody. “This is the second person that has died in jail since I became sheriff,” Smith said. “I don’t want this to happen again.” He also said that two of his jailers have left his employment since Bland’s death. “It has been hard on us,” he said. “We are working hard to take care of those who are still with us and are making changes to make certain this does not happen again.”

The sheriff said the Waller County Commissioners Court approved a new budget that increased funds for the jail, and the county was “making changes that include a new electronic logging system where jailers will log, in real time, their hourly visits to the jail to check on the inmates’ welfare.” Smith said they missed one of those hourly visits in Bland’s case. “I don’t know if that would have made a difference or not, but we don’t want this to happen again.” The sheriff said the county has approved funds to have more jailers on the floor at all times.

If Brian Encinia is convicted, he could be sentenced up to a year in jail and be given up to a $4,000 fine.

Enicina’s next court date will be on May 17.

The mother of Sandra Bland has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking damages on behalf of herself and Bland’s estate, as reported by Breitbart Texas.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2


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