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We will probably never know what prompted Brian Encinia to make a U-turn on a four-lane road in Waller County Texas and follow a car with Illinois plates, but we will never forget what happened next.


After both vehicles came to a stop, Encinia– a 30-year-old Texas trooper who joined the Texas Department of Public Safety about 18 months ago– approached the passenger side of 28-year old Sandra Bland’s car, peered into the window and began:

“Hello, ma’am.”


“The reason for your stop is you failed to signal a lane change. Got your driver’s license and insurance with you?”

Bland– an alumae of Prairie View A&M University who’d just relocated from Chicago to to start a new job at her alma mater– had merged from the left to right lane of traffic, then onto the shoulder of the roadway (presumably because she realized she was being followed by a marked car with flashing lights) without having turned on her indicator light. If she responded to Encinia’s question, it was inaudible.

Encinia proceeds: “What’s wrong?”

Again, few seconds of silence pass before he asks: “How long have you been in Texas?”

Bland replies that she’d arrived the day before, and Encinia asks her to “give me a few minutes,” as he returns to his car. Several minutes pass before Encinia approaches the driver’s side of Bland’s car and asks, “You OK?”

Bland does little to mask the aggravation in her voice as she responds, “I’m waiting on you, this is your job.”

“You seem very irritated.”

“I am. I really I am. I don’t know what I’m getting a ticket for, you were speeding up, tailing me, I move over and you stop me. So, yeah I am a little irritated, but that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so give me a ticket.”

“Are you done?”

 “You asked me what was wrong and I told you, so now I’m done, yeah.”

Encinia asks Bland to put out her cigarette and she replies, “I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?”

“Well, you can step out of the car now.” This time, Encinia’s command is terse. The stakes have been raised.

“I don’t have to step out.”

“Step out of the car. Step out of the car!”

“I’m getting removed for a failure to signal?”

“I’m giving you a lawful order.”

When Bland states that she is going to call her lawyer– an already fraught exchange escalates. Encinia threatens, “I’m going to yank you out of here!”

“Oh, you’re going to yank me out of my car? OK.”

The two argue back and forth, Encinia calls for backup, and demands that Bland, “Get out of the car!,” as he draws what appears to be a Taser, yelling “I will light you up!”

Bland exits her car, and the argument grows more heated as the two move out of camera range.

The audio that follows gets even uglier. Encinia finds himself on the receiving end of a string of expletives. There is a scuffle. At one point, Bland cries out “You just slammed me, knocked my head into the ground… I got epilepsy!” To which Encinia replies, “Good.”

Things go downhill from there.

Bland was arrested and jailed while friends and family scrambled to satisfy her $5,000 bond. Three days later, she was found dead in her cell from an apparent suicide by hanging. (In response to supporters calling for a Justice Department investigation, the Waller County district attorney, Elton Mathis, said in an interview, “Once the entire investigation comes in, it will be reviewed for potential criminal liability on behalf of the trooper, if any.”)

Trooper Encinia now claims he placed Bland in handcuffs because he feared for his own safety. “Bland began swinging her elbows at me and then kicked my right leg in the shin,” reads the arrest affidavit. “I had a pain in my right leg and suffered small cuts on my right hand.”

What Encinia failed to record in his retelling of the facts, however, was that he’d pulled a stun gun on Bland. He also neglected to document her repeated questions re: why she was being apprehended, and why she had to get out of her car.

Authorities rely on affidavits to determine if there is probable cause for arrest, but the glaring holes in Encinia’s recollections undermined his credibility. After a preliminary investigation found he’d violated the Texas Department of Public Safety’s traffic stop and courtesy procedures during the stop, which was for an improper lane change, Encinia was put on administrative leave.

“Regardless of the situation, the DPS state trooper has an obligation to exhibit professionalism and be courteous,” DPS Director Steve McCraw told the Washington Post. “That did not happen in this situation.”

Speculation about Bland’s mental state have already begun to swirl– as have what the results of her autopsy and toxicology report might reveal to authorities.

But as pundits from mass media to social media debate the state of affairs between white police officers and unarmed African Americans who have been victimized by those sworn to protect and serve the public– it’s time we consider what Eckhart Tolle calls painbody.

Tolle, a spiritual teacher and author, believes that when we experience an emotional trauma that “is not fully faced and dealt with in the moment it arose,” the negativity manifests as energy that lives within our bodies. Over time, a series of these energy fields can accumulate– resulting in a painbody.

Like any energy force, a painbody will not only feed on experiences that resonates with its own kind of energy, but it will create a situation in your life that reflects back its own energy frequency for it to feed on. “Once the pain body has taken you over,” warns Tolle, “YOU WANT MORE PAIN, you become a victim or perpetrator.”

Anger, destructiveness, hatred, resentment, grief, emotional drama, violence and even illness are common triggers.

Based on a YouTube video that Bland recorded just six days before her arrest, in which she speaks out about #BlackLivesMatter, it’s probably safe to say that her painbody might have been triggered by injustice, abuse of authority and racism.

How else to explain the paradox of her collaborating in a vortex of violence and toxicity that ended in her arrest– all the while knowing how easily her life could be taken by Trooper Encinia. Why was she so reckless when her very survival was on the line? Why didn’t Bland behave as if her life mattered when dealing with somebody who was obviously armed, dangerous and demonstrating nothing but ill-will, a pathological need to dominate and firepower?

And what of Encinia?

What triggered him to follow Bland on a quiet road in the first place? Why ticket her for circumstances that he knew were precipitated by his actions? Why, as a trained professional, was his ability to de-escalate the situation so lacking? Why didn’t he answer Bland’s questions as stipulated by his code of conduct? Why did his line of questioning sound more like a provocation than inquiry? And why did law enforcement look like bullying in his hands?

We will probably never know what forces caused Encinia’s and Bland’s painbodies to collide on July 10, but until we recognize ourselves in them– their demise will be be indecipherable from our own.