On Monday night, Dallas news station WFAA released new cellphone footage from the 2015 arrest of Sandra Bland that confirms what we all already knew: that the life of Texas state trooper Brian Encinia was never in danger and that Texas officials have withheld evidence of not only her controversial arrest, but very likely her death.
In the 39-second video—a collaborative effort between WFAA and the Investigative Network—Encinia aggressively demands Bland, 28, get out of her car while she calmly questions the justification for doing so.
“Why am I being apprehended?” she asks, recording their interaction for her own safety.
“Get out of the car now!” Encinia yells before pointing a taser at her. “I will light you up!”
She is eventually removed from her car and arrested.
Three days later she would be found dead in her Waller County jail cell near Houston, where her death would be ruled a suicide.
The Washington Post reports that until the release of this video, the Encinia’s dashcam footage was believed to be the only existing recording of the infamous July 2015 traffic stop in which Bland was pulled over for failing to signal a lane change. During the investigation, Encinia maintained that he feared for his safety during the stop.
“My safety was in jeopardy at more than one time,” Encinia told investigators.
But as you can see for yourself, clearly that wasn’t the case.
Bland’s family and attorney never saw this footage until now and believe it was intentionally withheld. As such, they’re demanding that Texas officials re-examine the criminal case against Encinia.
“Open up the case, period,” Shante Needham, Bland’s sister, said after watching the video.
She added, “We also know they have an extremely, extremely good cover-up system.”
After declining an on-camera interview with WFAA, the Texas Department of Public Safety released the following statement maintaining that the footage wasn’t withheld:
“The premise that the video was not produced as a part of the discovery process is wrong. A hard drive containing copies of 820 Gigabytes of data compiled by DPS from its investigation, including the dashcam videos, jail video footage and data from Sandra Bland’s cell phone, was part of discovery.”
But Cannon Lambert, the attorney who represented the Bland family, calls bullshit.
“I’ve not seen it,” said Lambert, when shown the video by Brian Collister, chief reporter with the Investigative Network. “If they had turned it over, I would have seen it, Brian. I’ve not seen that.”
“He sees exactly what’s in her hand,” Lambert added, referencing the footage. “How can you tell me you don’t know what’s in her hand when you’re looking right dead at it? What did she do to make him feel his safety was in jeopardy? Nothing.”
Of particular note, grand jury proceedings are secret, so whether Waller County grand jurors were shown the video remains unconfirmed.
“[The video] not only shows that [Encinia] lied, but that he really had no business even stopping her, period,” Needham said. “And at the end of the day, he needs to go to jail.”
State Rep. Garnet Coleman released the following statement upon the release of this new information:
“It is troubling that a crucial piece of evidence was withheld from Sandra Bland’s family and legal team in their pursuit of justice. The illegal withholding of evidence by one side from the other destroys our legal system’s ability to produce fair and just outcomes. As Chair of the House Committee on County Affairs that looked into the death of Sandra Bland, I will make sure that the Committee will also look into how this happened.
I am glad to see that the Sandra Bland Act is already making a difference in terms of better training for jailers and new officers. Additionally, through new data reporting requirements regarding traffic stops, the Act has already helped push local reforms and key legislative policies forward such as House Bill 2754 by Representative White, of which I am a Joint-Author of, that prevents arrests for nonjailable offenses. HB 2754’s policy was part of the original Sandra Bland Act as filed last session. I am proud that the Act has had a positive impact and will continue to make a difference in the future.”
Despite officials being elusive in providing Bland’s family with answers, the family settled a wrongful death suit against Waller County and Texas DPS in 2016 for $1.9 million.
Additionally, there were no indictments handed down to Waller County lawmen in connection with Bland’s death.
We’ll keep you updated with any further developments.