On Wednesday this week, dashcam footage of Chicago-native Sandra Bland's arrest was released to the public, prompting many to question the legitimacy of Bland's initial arrest after being pulled over for a no turn-signal violation by Texas Trooper Brian Encinia on July 10. In the video, Encinia was seen becoming increasingly frustrated over Bland's refusal to put out a cigarette after Encinia had requested her signature on citation paperwork, later pulling her from her vehicle to place her under arrest. Bland was found dead in her cell at Waller County jail three days later, and Encinia was "removed from street duty" and placed on administrative assignment pending an investigatory outcome. Prior to his suspension on July 17, however, Encinia's law enforcement record was relatively spotless.
Although officials are hesitant to label any of Encinia's actions from the day of Bland's arrest as illegal, it hasn't stopped them from casting doubt on his on-the-job performance that afternoon.
"I didn’t like what I saw when I saw the video of the trooper’s actions, but I’ll reserve judgment," said Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. Mathis added that, no matter the direction of the case, the intent would be to take the case to court in order to hold "an open and honest discussion about [Bland's] life."
Encinia, 30, had been with the Texas Department of Public Safety as a Trooper for a little over a year prior to his suspension, and, as far as can be determined, had no prior issues on his official record. Bustle has reached out to Texas DPS spokespersons for Encinia's official records and is currently awaiting reply.
In previous years, Encinia had also served as a volunteer firefighter with the Brenham, Texas, fire department, a role which he held for four years. Brenham Fire Chief Ricky Boeker told The Journal that Encinia had been "well liked" and that he had never encountered any problems while with the department.
"He was an excellent firefighter," Boeker told reporters. "He was well liked, and we did not have any issues with him."
An graduate of Texas A&M University's school of Agricultural Leadership & Development and a participant in the school's ROTC Cadet program, Encinia worked for Blue Bell Creameries as an ingredient processor before his tenure as a volunteer firefighter. It was unclear whether Encinia served time in the military after graduation.
On July 17, Texas DPS released a statement indicating that Encinia had allegedly violated certain protocols in the process of Bland's arrest. They explained,
In the preliminary review of the traffic stop that occurred in Prairie View on July 10, 2015, involving Sandra Bland, we have identified violations of the department’s procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy.
Pending the [investigation's] outcome ... the employee involved (Encinia) has been assigned administrative duties. At the conclusion of this investigation, any violations of protocols will be addressed.
The incident, added the DPS, was being handled by the Texas Rangers and the FBI.