Key events in case of black woman found dead in Texas jail
HEMPSTEAD, Texas (AP) — The family of Sandra Bland, a Chicago-area black woman who died in a Texas jail cell after a contentious traffic stop last summer, has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $1.9 million, according to the family’s attorney. Bland’s arrest and death, which was ruled a suicide, came amid heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially individuals who were killed by officers or who died in police custody.
Here are some key events in the Bland case:
— July 10, 2015: Bland is pulled over in Prairie View, northwest of Houston, for changing lanes without signaling. The stop grows confrontational and state trooper Brian Encinia orders her from the car before forcing her to the ground and taking her into custody on a charge of assaulting a public servant. Bland, who was in the process of moving to Texas from the Chicago area, is booked into the Waller County jail.
— July 13, 2015: A jailer finds Bland hanging in her cell. A preliminary autopsy determined she used a garbage bag to hang herself.
— July 16, 2015: The Texas Department of Public Safety announces Encinia has been placed on administrative leave. Authorities determine he violated procedures guiding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy.
— July 21, 2015: DPS releases dash-cam video showing the traffic stop, which quickly became confrontational. The video shows the trooper holding a stun gun and yelling, “I will light you up!” after Bland refuses to get out of her car. Bland eventually steps out of the vehicle, and Encinia orders her to the side of the road. The confrontation continues off-camera but is still audible.
— July 22, 2015: Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith reveals that Bland told a guard during the booking process that she had previously tried to kill herself. Smith said two jailers who spoke with Bland insisted that she appeared fine when booked into the jail. She was not placed under suicide watch.
— July 23, 2015: The Waller County district attorney’s office reveals details of autopsy findings, which concluded Bland killed herself. The findings also show she had marijuana in her system and that about 30 cuts along Bland’s wrist were likely self-inflicted some weeks before her arrest.
— July 31, 2015: Department of Public Safety personnel records show Encinia was once cautioned about “unprofessional conduct” in a 2014 incident while he was still a probationary trooper.
— Aug. 4, 2015: Bland’s family files a wrongful death lawsuit.
— Dec. 17, 2015: A judge sets a Jan. 23, 2017, trial date for the wrongful death lawsuit.
— Dec. 21, 2015: Waller County grand jury decides no felony crime was committed by the sheriff’s office or jailers in the treatment of Bland.
— Jan. 6: Waller County grand jury indicts Encinia on perjury count, a misdemeanor, for allegedly lying about how he removed Bland from her vehicle during the stop. The Department of Public Safety says it is firing Encinia.
— March 2: State officials say Encinia has been formally fired. He has the ability to appeal.
— March 22: Encina pleads not guilty to the misdemeanor perjury charge.
— April 12: Panel convened after Bland’s death issues report saying the small-town jail where Bland died needs more expertise among its staff to identify mental health issues, along with body cameras and anger-management training for jailers.
— July 20: Federal judge orders mediation in the wrongful death lawsuit.
— July 22: A Bland family attorney says an ex-guard told him in a deposition that he falsified jail log entries by noting he’d checked on Bland in the hour before she was found dead in her cell.
— Aug. 26: Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that two of Bland’s jailers were quietly moved to other jobs two months after her death.
— Sept. 15: An attorney for Bland’s family tells Houston television station KTRK that the wrongful death lawsuit has been settled for $1.9 million.