Sandra Bland's wrongful death case resolved

Judge David Hittner accepted the mediated $1.9M settlement Bland's mother made with Waller County officials and the state trooper who arrested her

Gabrielle Banks
Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON — A federal judge in Houston on Tuesday ended a chapter of Sandra Bland's family's struggle to shed light on her arrest on a rural roadway in July 2015 and subsequent suicide three days later in a Waller County jail cell.

In a terse one-page ruling, U.S. District Judge David Hittner accepted the mediated $1.9 million settlement Bland's mother Geneva Reed-Veal made with Waller County officials and the state trooper who arrested her.

The trooper, Brian Encinia, was fired from the department and faces a criminal charge of perjury for how he handled the case.

Bland's arrest and death became a focal point of the Black Lives Matter movement, focusing on police officers' treatment of African-Americans.

In mid-September, Bland's mother announced the parties had reached the $1.9 million settlement of the suit. County officials agreed to make steps toward improving how inmates are booked and supervised at the jail and other rural facilities that lack medical services on site.

Bland, who was from Chicago, had just relocated to Waller County and gotten a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, when she was stopped by Encinia for failing to signal a lane change.

Encinia, on a dash-cam video that went viral after Bland's death, ordered Bland to get out of the car and after a scuffle off camera, arrested her.

Bland told officials at the jail she had previously attempted suicide but was not suicidal. The medical examiner ruled she died by hanging in her jail cell three days later. Her family said communications broke down over the weekend and they were unable to get her bonded out.

When she announced a settlement was in the works in the wrongful death suit, Bland's mother, Reed-Veal, said she thought the resolution would have "a rippling effect across the country."

"I'm hopeful there won't be any more unlawful arrests. I'm hopeful with this spotlight and this settlement that others don't have to receive a call from 1,000 miles away that their child is on the way to the morgue," she said.

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