Texas Sheriff R. Glenn Smith of Waller County just solved one of the numerous factual riddles about Sandra Bland’s tragic arrest by Texas Trooper Brian Encinia.
Smith confirmed that none other than the FBI has Sandra Bland’s Cellphone as evidence.
A citizen journalist asked Smith a detailed multi-part question, “Where is [Bland’s] camera? Did you book her camera? Did you process it? Did you handle it?”
Sheriff Smith dodged the detailed question about the chain of evidence, but did disclose that the FBI is now in possession of Sandra Bland’s cell phone.
“I think you can see it on the trooper’s video, that the phone ended up in her car. She didn’t come in with it. But then she questioned that phone, the FBI has it. Yeah, yeah.”
Sheriff Smith later confirmed that the booking documents – that his office released – have a typographical error regarding her medical history purporting an event to happen in 2015 when it happened in 2014.
Smith chose to answer more than 20 minutes worth of questions for a group of activists from Peaceful Streets Project and PINAC correspondent Mike Bluehair Smith who published the video to youtube today
It what turned into an impromptu, citizen journalists’ press conference in the lobby of the Waller County jail this past Saturday, August 8th.
You’ll often read in PINAC News stories that one should never, ever talk to the police, but if you’re a concerned citizen, a citizen journalist, or a paid professional journalist, we encourage you to make it your business to question the police, thoroughly – and often.
When the elected Texas law enforcement officer was asked about the video Texas troopers released last month, showing that Officer Encinia had lied to his supervisor about Sandra Bland’s arrest and replied that,
“Legally, he didn’t do anything wrong. That’s my opinion. I’ve got 36 years experience, he’s got 13 months… It’s easy to be judgmental.”
PINAC’s prior reports strongly disagree with Smith’s viewpoint, finding that recent case law by the Supreme Court means officers cannot extend traffic stops beyond, “when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are… completed” and should’ve applied in Sandra Bland’s arrest.
Smith continued, “legality wise; Telling her to put out the cigarette, get out of the car, do things like that, that’s not illegal. That’s my opinion.”
His opinion ignores the context of Sandra Bland’s arrest, which stemmed from an unused tail signal.
Texas trooper Encinia can clearly be seen at minute 12 showing a completed warning citation to Bland – presumably it was complete when he re-approached her car, since he’s not seen writing the ticket on camera after forcibly removing the 6′ tall woman from her car.
In response to a follow up question asking “He told [Bland] he’ll ‘light her up’, she didn’t have any kind of weapon and he pulled a taser and said ‘I’ll light you up’” Sheriff Smith replied “That’s not illegal”
The longtime Texas lawman is used to splitting hairs verbally, now that he’s an elected political office holder and member of the Republican party, now sitting in the Sheriff’s chair.
While he’s technically correct, it’s not illegal for Encinia to say any of those things, it’s certainly improper for an officer to assault a citizen – to cause the apprehension of immediate bodily harm – just for having a lit cigarette during a traffic stop.
Especially, when the traffic stop is complete.
The only reason an officer may order someone out of the car – as Encinia did to Bland that fateful day – is when the officer fears for his own safety due to traffic.
A court of law will rule on the legality of the traffic stop, once the lawsuit Sandra Bland’s family brought against Texas law enforcement ultimately winds its way through the court system.
Though he is now the Waller County Sheriff, Smith was fired from his previous professional law enforcement position as Hempstead’s Police Chief in 2008 for the actions of his department:
Activist Herschel Smith said many Hempstead residents expressed concerns about police conduct. He said two incidents that sparked worries involved a mistaken drug raid and a strip search conducted on area youths by Hempstead police.
Herschel Smith said he led the move to oust the chief and cited the mistaken drug raid as one reason.
Herschel Smith also said police made young African-American males strip in public.
When asked if he’d have conducted Sandra Bland’s traffic stop differently, Smith replied that, “after 36 years, I could probably do a traffic stop a little different” and concluded that he’d “give her a warning ticket and move on, you know.”
“It’s just a bad deal.”
After 36 years, the blue line gets thick, but after a dozen minutes of questioning, these citizen journalists at least managed to get Smith to admit that a reasonable officer – himself being quite reasonable in answering questions that don’t pertain to his own department’s actions – should’ve just handed Sandra Bland a citation and moved on with life.
The politician concluded that, “the jailers didn’t violate any rule or the way that anything was handled.”
At PINAC, we respectfully disagree, and firmly believe that Texas law enforcement was responsible for Sandra Bland’s death for the numerous ways different agencies botched a simple traffic stop and pre-trial detention.