CHICAGO (AP) — The mother of a black woman found dead in a Texas jail cell after a traffic stop in July said Thursday that a perjury charge against the white state trooper who pulled her over is “not justice.”
An emotional Geneva Reed-Veal told reporters in Chicago that the trooper should have been charged with battery and false arrest, adding that she has no confidence in the investigation and justice process.
“There should have been much more” from the grand jury, she said. “I’m angry, absolutely,” she said of the misdemeanor perjury charge, which carries a maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
“That’s not justice for me,” she said.
Sandra Bland, 28, was stopped in July for an improper lane change. The stop quickly escalated into a shouting match and a physical confrontation with the Trooper threatening to use a stun gun. Bland was arrested on suspicion of assaulting the trooper. Authorities say Bland hanged herself in her jail cell three days later.
Trooper Brian Encinia was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in Texas on allegations that he lied when he claimed in an affidavit that Bland was “combative and uncooperative” after he pulled her over during the 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.
Encinia pulled Bland over on July 10 for making an improper lane change near Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater, where she had just interviewed for and accepted a job. Dashcam video from Encinia’s patrol car shows that the traffic stop quickly became confrontational.
Video of the stop shows Encinia drawing his stun gun and telling Bland, “I will light you up!” Bland eventually steps out of the vehicle, and Encinia orders her to the side of the road. She can later be heard off-camera screaming that he’s about to break her wrists and complaining that he knocked her head into the ground.
Encinia wrote in his affidavit that he had Bland exit the vehicle and handcuffed her after she became combative, and that she swung her elbows at him and kicked him in his right shin. Encinia said he then used force “to subdue Bland to the ground,” and she continued to fight back. He arrested her for assault on a public servant.
Bland was taken to the Waller County jail in Hempstead, about 50 miles northwest of Houston. Three days later, she was found hanging from a jail cell partition with a plastic garbage bag around her neck. The grand jury has already declined to charge any sheriff’s officials or jailers in her death.