HOUSTON (CN) - The Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland during a traffic stop before she was found dead in the Waller County jail was indicted on a perjury charge and will be fired, officials said Wednesday.
If convicted of the Class A misdemeanor, Trooper Brian Encinia, 30, faces a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine, special prosecutor Shawn McDonald said Wednesday outside the Waller County Courthouse, an hour northwest of Houston.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said later Wednesday that it will fire Encinia.
Jail officers found Bland dead in her cell on July 13, 2015. Officials said Bland, 28, had hanged herself with a plastic bag.
Bland's family and friends challenged the story, saying she had no history of depression and was excited about her new job at Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater. Bland had just moved from Chicago for the job.
Her death came three days after Encinia pulled her over for failure to signal then arrested her after she refused to put out her cigarette, and they scuffled. Encinia said that Bland tried to kick him.
The grand jury's perjury charge involves statements Encinia made in a 1-page affidavit he filed with Waller County jail officials that explained why he arrested Bland, the Houston Chronicle reported
The grand jury in December declined to indict any Waller County jail staff over Bland's death.
Bland's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Encinia, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Waller County and two jailers in August last year. The case is set for trial in January 2017.
Bland's story became part of the Black Lives Matter movement's narrative after dashcam video of the traffic stop went viral. The footage shows Encinia threaten to shock Bland with a Taser, then pull her out of the car after she refuses to get out.
Encinia's attorney Larkin Eakin told the Chronicle that the officer was surprised by the charge "because he does not feel anything was misleading in his report" and he will plead not guilty.
"The indictment was issued in reference to the reason he removed her from her vehicle," special prosecutor McDonald said.