"Video: DPS Officer Became Enraged Over Cigarette" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Editor's note: This story has been updated.
PRAIRIE VIEW — After a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper stopped Sandra Bland's car and approached her, he told her to put out her cigarette. Then he asked her to get out of her car. When she asked why, he reached for his Taser and threatened to "light up" the 28-year-old, according to a tense 51-minute video and other records released Tuesday.
The video, released nine days after Bland was found dead by hanging in the Waller County jail, shows an argument over a cigarette that turned combative when Bland started questioning why she was being told to step out of her car.
Throughout the exchange, Bland became increasingly agitated, at times yelling and swearing at DPS trooper Brian Encinia.
“Step out or I will remove you," Encinia told Bland, opening her door, reaching into the car and grabbing her. “I’m going to drag you out of here.”
Throughout the exchange, Bland asks repeatedly why she is being asked to step out of the car, telling the officer she is not under arrest. He responds that she is.
“Get out of the car,” he yells, pulling out his Taser, reaching into the car and appearing to point it at Bland’s head. “I will light you up.”
After Bland steps out of the car, Encinia leads her to the side of the road.
“I cannot wait until we go to court. I can’t wait,” she says. “You want me to sit down now? Or you going to throw me to the floor? That’s going to make you feel better about yourself? That will make you feel real good, won’t it?”
Bland asks Encinia several times why she is under arrest before he says she is under arrest because she is “not compliant.”
“You were getting a warning,” Encinia says. “Now you’re getting arrested.”
Although Bland and Encinia are off camera as he handcuffs her, she can be heard shrieking and crying: “You’re about to break my wrist, can you stop?”
Bland can be heard telling Encinia he has slammed her head into the ground and she has epilepsy.
“Good,” Encinia replies.
Bland was moving back to Texas from the Chicago area for a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, when she was pulled over just 1,000 feet from campus for failing to signal when changing lanes. She was charged with assaulting a public servant.
After her arrest, Bland was incarcerated in the Waller County jail, operated by the Waller County sheriff's department. Three days later, she was found hanged to death inside the jail. The Harris County medical examiner ruled her death a suicide last week.
Encinia's arrest affidavit, also released Tuesday by the Waller County district attorney’s office, does not include many of the details of the confrontation captured on tape.
Curiously, Bland was asked to exit her Hyundai Azera to “conduct a safe traffic investigation,” according to the affidavit, something most motorists are not asked to do for such a minor infraction. When Bland refused to do so, Encinia wrote that she became “combative and uncooperative.”
“Bland began swinging her elbows at me and then kicked my right leg in the shin,” Encinia wrote in the report. “I had a pain in my right leg and suffered small cuts on my right hand. Force was used to subdue Bland to the ground to which Bland continued to fight back."
There are several moments during the video when Bland and Encinia move out of sight of the patrol car camera. The video does not show Bland kicking Encinia during the parts of the altercation that are visible.
Last week, DPS reassigned Encinia to desk duties, saying the dashboard video revealed violations of traffic stop procedures. DPS Director Steve McCraw acknowledged Tuesday that Encinia did not comply with procedure because he was not "courteous," and did not let Bland know what action he was planning to take.
Jim Harrington, an attorney and director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, called Encinia's behavior on the video "outrageous."
“The cops are supposed to de-escalate things. Everything he did escalated it,” Harrington said. “He shouldn’t have arrested her. … You can’t resist arrest before being arrested.”
The probe into Bland's death is being conducted with the rigor and breadth of a murder investigation, Elton Mathis, Waller County's district attorney, said Monday at a news conference.
After viewing the video, Mathis said Bland was not "compliant" with Encinia's directions.
"Sandra Bland was very combative," Mathis said. "It was not a model traffic stop. It was not a model person that was stopped."
Jim Malewitz and Alana Rocha contributed to this report.