The former Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland during a 2015 traffic stop agreed never to work again in law enforcement in exchange for having a misdemeanor perjury charge against him dismissed, CNN reports.
Under the deal announced on Wednesday, Brian Encinia will turn over his police credentials and sign a sworn statement that permanently ends his law enforcement career. He was the only officer to face criminal charges in connection with Bland’s death while in police custody.
News of the deal shocked Bland’s family. Their attorney, Cannon Lambert, said the special prosecutor promised the family that he would take the case to trial.
“The prosecutor didn’t even reach out to the family to notify them that they were looking to cut this deal,” Lambert said, according to CNN.
He added: “What was gained — him never being an officer anymore, would have been gained by a conviction. They gave up a chance to seek justice and got nothing.”
Bland’s sister, Shante Needham, who lives in the Chicago area, said the family expected to travel to Texas in September for the trial, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“Why? Why? Why? Why did you cut him a deal when you (the prosecutor) sat in our faces and you seen our pain and you told us you were going to take it to court?” she asked.
Phoebe Smith, a member of the prosecution team, said she sympathizes with Bland’s family but didn’t want to gamble on how a jury would decide the case, according to The Chronicle. She added that the team achieved the of permanently taking Encinia off the street.
Encinia, who was fired last year, stopped Bland in July 2015 for allegedly failing to use a turn signal. A dashcam video shows that a routine traffic stop escalated when Bland refused to put out her cigarette. Encinia dragged Bland, 28, out of her vehicle and threatened to Taser her. Several days after her arrest, Bland was found hanging in her jail cell, which authorities ruled a suicide.
A grand jury indicted Encinia for making false statements about the arrest. In a sworn document filed after the arrest, the former trooper claimed that he removed Bland from her car to conduct a safe traffic investigation.
Encinia’s lawyer, Chip Lewis, is pleased with the deal. He said it was unlikely that the ex-trooper would work in law enforcement because Encinia has been living with police protection after receiving numerous death threats over the incident.
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