The state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, a woman whose death helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement in 2015, was cleared of all charges by a Texas judge on Wednesday, the New York Times reports.
Back in July 2015, Brian Encinia pulled Bland over for a routine traffic stop. In dashcam footage of the incident, Encinia was seen violently slamming Bland into the ground, though he was never charged with assault. Likewise, no one was ever charged when Bland was found dead in a county jail cell three days after she was taken into custody. A medical examiner ruled her death was a suicide.
After the incident, Encinia initially claimed that he pulled Bland out of her car so that he could more safely conduct the stop when she failed to use a turning signal. A grand jury found that to be false and indicted him on a perjury charge, the Texas Tribune reports. On Wednesday, the judge dismissed that charge after the cop's defense team cut a deal contingent on Encinia never working in law enforcement again.
"Brian and his family appreciate the thoughtful review by the prosecutors," Encinia's lawyer said in a statement. "Dismissal was the right thing to do. The Encinias will remain forever grateful to their family, friends, and members of the law enforcement community for all their support."
Ever since her death, Bland's family has vehemently opposed a medical examiner's assertion, citing the 28-year-old activist's brand-new job as a compelling reason to live. In July 2016, a local cop levied the accusation that he was commanded to stay quiet about certain aspects of Bland's time in custody. Prairie View officer Michael Kelley said that Encinia had to cook up an "assaulting a public servant charge" against Bland with the help of a supervisor in order to justify her detainment. He also said that Bland came into jail with marks on her forehead—a detail that was omitted by the police report Encinia filled out.
Although no one was ultimately held responsible for Bland's death, her name remains a focal point in the national conversation about police brutality. Additionally, the Texas legislature passed the Sandra Bland Act on June 15, which requires independent investigations of deaths that take place in jails. The law will go into effect this September.
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