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Texas trooper fired for traffic stop of woman who later died in jail

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas trooper who arrested a black woman motorist later found hanged in her jail cell has been fired after being charged with misdemeanor perjury on suspicion of lying in the arrest report he filed for the July incident, officials said on Thursday.

Texas state trooper Brian Encinia points a Taser as he orders Sandra Bland out of her vehicle, in this still image captured from the police dash camera video from the traffic stop of Bland's vehicle in Prairie View, Texas, July 10, 2015. REUTERS/The Texas Department of Public Safety/Handout via Reuters

The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety sent a letter dated March 1 to Trooper Brian Encinia notifying him that he had been terminated as of that day, adding he had the right to appeal, they said.

“I have determined that you have not rebutted the charges set out in the statement of charges,” the letter said.

Encinia, who arrested 28-year-old Sandra Bland in July, was indicted by the grand jury in Waller County, outside of Houston, in January. He is suspected of making false statements in the arrest report about the reason he removed Bland from her vehicle.

The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Bland, an African-American, was found dead in her cell three days after her arrest. Her case was one of many around the United States that raised questions about racial bias by police.

Bland’s family has questioned autopsy reports that say she committed suicide and has filed a wrongful death suit against the trooper and her jailors.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has faulted Encinia for his conduct during the traffic stop. A dashcam video showed him shouting at Bland and failing to answer her when she asked numerous times why she was being arrested.

Bland was charged with assaulting an officer, a felony, and critics said her race was an underlying factor in the traffic stop and the way in which the trooper allowed the confrontation to escalate.

Bland was found dead in her cell three days later with a trash bag around her neck. Local officials have said she was not mistreated in jail.

Editing by Bernadette Baum