US & Canada

Sandra Bland police officer charged with perjury

Arrest of Sandra Bland Image copyright AP
Image caption Footage of the arrest was widely shared

A Texas police officer has been charged with perjury over his confrontation with a woman who died in jail shortly after being arrested.

Sandra Bland was arrested during a heated traffic stop captured on film. She was found dead three days later.

The 28-year-old's death and the video footage of her arrest sparked outrage.

The arresting officer, Brian Encinia, has been charged with allegedly lying about it, a prosecutor announced after a day of grand jury discussions.

Hours later, he was fired from his job.

The grand jury had picked out the officer's affidavit as behind their decision, said special prosecutor Shawn McDonald.

In that affidavit, Mr Encinia had claimed that Ms Bland was "combative and uncooperative" after he pulled her over.

The argument began after she was asked to put out her cigarette and he demanded she get out of her car.

Video footage showed the police officer drawing his stun gun and threatening Ms Bland with the words: "I will light you up!"

Image copyright AP
Image caption Hundreds attended Sandra Bland's funeral

After the argument moved off-camera, she was heard screaming that he was about to break her wrists and she complained that her head knocked against the ground.

Mr McDonald said grand jurors found Mr Encinia's statement that he had "removed her from her vehicle to further conduct a safer traffic investigation" to be false.

Soon after the indictment, the Texas Department of Public Safety said "termination proceedings" would start immediately.

Ms Bland's death three days after her arrest was ruled a suicide and the sheriff's officials and jailers were cleared of any crime.

But it sparked national headlines for days amid a debate about the police use of force against African Americans.

The perjury charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Related Topics

More on this story