Sandra Bland was a 28-year-old black woman from suburban Chicago who, last summer, had just relocated to Waller County, Texas, for a job in student outreach at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University in Texas. She was to start in her new position when she was pulled over near the university by a state trooper for improperly signaling a lane change. According to Sheriff's Department officials, she became "combative" with the trooper, who then restrained her and arrested her for assault on a public servant. She was taken into custody and was found dead in her cell days later. The Sheriff's Department claim that she killed herself.
Later, dashcam footage revealed that the arresting officer's account of events was garbage, and, as the investigation into her death got underway, the Waller County Sheriff's Office leaked information about Bland that tried to make the case that she was troubled and responsible for her own death.
In a bid for justice, Bland's family filed a civil rights lawsuit, while the criminal investigation continued. Slowly.
But yesterday, a grand jury [CN: video may autoplay at link] indicted Brian Encinia, the state trooper who stopped Bland, on perjury charges:
The announcement came late Wednesday afternoon at the courthouse in Hempstead, about 50 miles northwest of Houston, during the grand jury's fourth meeting since it was convened this fall to deliberate the circumstances around Bland's arrest and incarceration.So that's it. Encinia, whose lawyer says he will plead not guilty, has been indicted for perjury, and the Texas Department of Public Safety is "initiating termination proceedings against" him as a result, but there will be no further charges brought in her death, despite the fact that there is no version of events where police are not culpable for it.
Darrell Jordan, one of five special prosecutors, said the grand jury's indictment stemmed from a statement the trooper made in a one-page affidavit he filed in Bland's arrest, in which he said he pulled her out of her Hyundai Azera to "further conduct a safe traffic investigation."
"They just didn't believe it," Jordan said, adding that a warrant would be issued for Encinia's arrest.
...The indictment follows an announcement in December by special prosecutors that the grand jury had declined to indict any members of the Waller County jail staff or sheriff's office. Jordan said that while the grand jury will continue reviewing other Waller County cases, it had concluded its review of Bland's arrest and death.
I fervently hope the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Bland's family will yield something looking a little more like meaningful accountability.
But that trial date has been set for January 2017. And you know what they say about justice delayed.
Black lives matter. Black lives matter.