Black Woman’s Brain Shifted in Her Skull During Fatal Arrest, Expert Says

Illustration by The Daily Beast, photos courtesy family
Illustration by The Daily Beast, photos courtesy family

A review of medical records shows Brianna Grier suffered two separate skull fractures, on the back and side of her head, on the night she fell out of a moving police car in which cops failed to close the door, lawyers representing her family announced Monday.

The preliminary analysis, requested by the parents of the 28-year-old Black woman and trumpeted by high-powered civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, was conducted by Dr. Allecia Wilson, the director of autopsy and forensic services at the University of Michigan. She worked in tandem with Roger Mitchell, chair of the department of pathology at Howard University.

Wilson explained at a Monday press conference that at the time of her death, Grier also had internal hemorrhages and swelling of the brain so great that it shifted from one side of the skull to the other. The injuries were due to a “violent collision” with a hard object, according to the family’s legal team.

During the announcement of the medical findings on Monday, Grier’s parents clutched a photo of their daughter and grandchildren Maria and Mariah—Grier’s two twin toddlers left in the care of their grieving grandparents.

“That’s why we’re here. We’re trying to get answers so we can finally tell them … what happened,” said Grier’s father, Marvin, addressing the audience at Mt. Zion Second Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Grier’s parents and sister previously described her to The Daily Beast as a smart and loving mother who suffered from increasingly intense mental health struggles after a schizophrenia diagnosis.

Cops Left Car Door Open Before Black Woman Fell to Her Death

As of the announcement on Monday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) still had not released the official autopsy results. But late last month, following calls by the family and their lawyers, the body-worn camera footage of one of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department officers who arrested her was released.

Footage from a single deputy showed the moments before Grier was placed in the car, as she threatened to harm herself and cried, screaming for the two deputies—Timothy Legette and Sergeant Marlin Primus, the sheriff’s brother—to get off her. Grier also threatened to harm herself if she was taken to jail.

Despite pulling out a taser—and Grier daring them to use it—the men seemed reticent to use the weapon. But family attorney Eric Hertz claimed on Monday that officers dropped Grier at least once prior to her being placed in the car. It was not clear in the video when, exactly, the family attorneys believed any critical fall may have taken place.

Reached for comment Monday, Legette referred The Daily Beast to an attorney, who could not immediately be reached for comment. Primus did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Once Grier was shoved into the car and the rear driver’s side door was shut, one deputy is heard asking the other, “You got the other side closed?”

“Yep,” the other responds.

After less than a minute of driving the car, the driver stops the vehicle and approaches a listless Grier on the ground. She would later die in the hospital, brain dead from her injuries.

Legette drove the car that briefly held Grier, and Primus followed behind in a separate vehicle, according to their respective incident reports, obtained through an open records request by The Daily Beast.

While Grier’s parents have said the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department initially claimed she kicked the door open herself, initial results of a GBI investigation found that the door was never closed and that Grier was not wearing a seatbelt—but was handcuffed.

Since then, family members have demanded the release of more video footage. No material has been released from the point of view of the other officer, who was driving behind the vehicle that briefly held Grier.

At the press conference on Monday, Crump called Grier the “face of the mental health crisis here in Georgia,” and asked why law enforcement was her only option for care.

The official autopsy has not yet been released by officials—a process Crump worried would be held up by months of delay.

“We are demanding that they finish this investigation expeditiously,” said Crump.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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