As Trooper Brian Encinia angrily threatened her with a stun gun from just outside her car window, Sandra Bland recorded the encounter on her cellphone, shown in a newly released 39-second video that has prompted Ms. Bland’s family to call for a renewed investigation into her arrest and death nearly four years ago.
Ms. Bland, a 28-year-old African-American from Chicago, was taken into custody in southeast Texas following the confrontational 2015 traffic stop and was found hanging in a jail cell three days later in what was officially ruled a suicide. The case, which drew international attention, intensified outrage over the treatment of black people by white police officers and was considered a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement.
The video surfaced for the first time publicly Monday night in an investigative report on the Dallas television station WFAA that included interviews with Ms. Bland’s family and supporters, who accused officials of concealing information that they say should have been made public early in the investigation.
The authorities released the trooper’s dashcam video days after Ms. Bland’s death but the fact that Ms. Bland recorded the encounter from the front seat of her car was not public knowledge. Cannon Lambert, a lawyer who represents the Bland family, said the video, by showing Ms. Bland with a cellphone in her hand, seriously undercut the trooper’s claim that he feared for his safety as he approached the woman’s vehicle.
“What the video shows is that Encinia had no reason to be in fear of his safety,” Mr. Lambert, who represented the family in a $1.9 million legal settlement, said in a telephone interview. “The video shows that he wasn’t in fear of his safety. You could see that it was a cellphone, he was looking right at it.”
Mr. Encinia said during internal interviews with Department of Public Safety officials that he had been worried about his safety. “My safety was in jeopardy at more than one time,” he told department interviewers.
Mr. Encinia was indicted on a charge of perjury — the only criminal charge arising from the case — after grand jurors accused him of making a false statement in his claim that he removed Ms. Bland from her car to more safely conduct a traffic investigation. But the charge was later dismissed on a motion by prosecutors in exchange for the trooper’s promise that he would never again work in law enforcement.
The prosecuting team concluded that Mr. Encinia’s permanent ban from law enforcement was the best option because there was no certainty of obtaining a conviction on the perjury charge, one of the prosecutors said at the time.
Ms. Bland’s death in a largely rural part of southeast Texas unified African-American leaders throughout the state, leading to the enactment of the Sandra Bland Act in 2017, which requires training in de-escalation techniques for all police officers, sets up protections in custody for people with mental health and substance abuse issues and requires that independent law enforcement agencies investigate jail deaths
The new video recycled the tense roadside confrontation that millions of online viewers had already seen from the officer’s dashcam video and another one shot by a bystander. The main difference was the perspective — in the video newly made public, Ms. Bland is directly facing Mr. Encinia.