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Texas Fires Trooper Who Arrested Sandra Bland

HOUSTON (CN) - The Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland three days before she died in her jail cell last summer was officially fired this week.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced in January it planned to fire Brian Encinia after a Waller County grand jury returned a perjury indictment against him.

The perjury charge is based on statements Encinia made in a one-page affidavit he filed with Waller County jail officials that explained why he arrested Bland.

DPS director Steve McCraw said in a termination letter that he met with Encinia in early February and listened to Encinia make his case for why he should keep his job.

"No cause has been presented to alter my preliminary decision. Therefore, it is now my decision that you be discharged from the Texas Department of Public Safety effective at 5:00 p.m., upon the date you receive this letter," the March 1 letter states.

DPS officials claimed in a termination letter the department sent Encinia in late January that he didn't follow the department's procedures for interviewing traffic violators when he stopped Bland, the Houston Chronice reported.

Encinia plans to appeal the firing to the Texas Public Safety Commission, a five-member board that oversees the DPS, his attorney Larkin Eakin told the newspaper.

The former police officer pulled Bland over on July 10, 2015, for failure to signal, then arrested her after she refused to put out her cigarette. They scuffled and Encinia said that Bland tried to kick him.

Dashcam footage from Encinia's cruiser recorded Bland asking, "Why do I have to put out a cigarette when I'm in my own car?"

Encinia repeatedly ordered her to get out of the car, and she refused. He finally tried to pull her out, and threatened to "light [her] up" with his Taser.

Jail officers found Bland dead in her cell three days later. 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.

Encinia's arraignment for the perjury charge is set for March 23. If convicted of the Class A misdemeanor, he faces a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

He is also a defendant in a federal wrongful death lawsuit that Bland's mother filed last August.

Katherine Wise with the Texas attorney general's office told Courthouse News on Thursday morning that the office is still representing Encinia in the civil case.

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