Rage Erupts at Funeral for Black Woman Who Died After Falling Out of Moving Cop Car

·3 min read
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty; Photo Courtesy of Lottie Grier
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty; Photo Courtesy of Lottie Grier

On Thursday morning, Brianna Marie Grier was laid to rest at a “celebration of life” at the West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

National outrage has erupted since the 28-year-old mother of two died in July from head injuries sustained while in the custody of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department after experiencing a mental health episode.

Specifically, state investigators say she died after falling out of a cop car—and that the door was left open by at least one of the people arresting her.

“The program says that we come to celebrate her life, but we also come to condemn her passing,” said the Reverend Al Sharpton, who entered the church at the side of Mariah and Maria, Grier’s twin 3-year-olds, and their grandparents.

“We ought not act like we’re here under a natural circumstance,” he preached.

During previous interviews with The Daily Beast, family described Grier as a mother who loved her children, dancing and eating at cookouts, and who was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

And as her mental health deteriorated during the last few years, Grier’s parents had called on Sheriff’s deputies for help when they couldn’t calm her down during especially difficult episodes.

Close family members told the Beast last month that deputies had previously helped her even as she did face past arrests.

‘We Want to Know Why’: Parents Say They Were Kept in the Dark After Daughter’s Patrol Car Death

So on July 15, when Grier’s mother called for help, they expected the same outcome.

“We want to know why that night was just so much different,” Lottie Grier, Brianna’s sister, told The Daily Beast.

During the early morning hours, Sergeant Marlin Primus and Deputy Timothy Legette arrested Grier for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct in the driveway of her parent’s house in Sparta, Georgia, according to arrest reports obtained by The Daily Beast.

At the house, deputies promised they would call in a “10-13” in the morning, hoping to send her for longer-term care, according to the family and police.

But when they woke, the family received different news: instead of being in the care of mental-health specialists, their daughter had been flown to Grady hospital in Atlanta after she fell, grievously injured, from the patrol car.

“We called the police for help,” Marvin Grier, Brianna’s father, told the crowd at Thursday’s funeral, adding, “Not hell.”

At the time, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office told Grier’s parents that the 110-pound woman had kicked open the patrol car’s door and tumbled from the vehicle.

But the Georgia Bureau of Investigation released preliminary findings refuting that narrative.The rear passenger-side door of the sedan in which Grier was placed after her arrest had been left open, and Grier had not been secured in the vehicle with a seatbelt, according to a press release by the agency.

Six days later, Grier passed away—braindead from multiple skull fractures and a brain so swollen it shifted to another side of her skull, according to an independent preliminary view of her medical records released by the family.

After her death, her heartbroken family began to call for answers from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. Last month, body-cam footage was released from the point of view of Deputy Legette, who drove the vehicle from which she fell less than a minute after leaving the Griers’ house.

When reached for comment this week, Legette referred The Daily Beast to his attorneys at Harrison & Medlin, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sgt. Primus—brother of the county’s sheriff, and the second deputy on scene—indicated in his own account of the incident that he shut the door, but Primus’ body cam has not been released. A spokesperson for GBI confirmed this week that the additional footage exists. Primus could not immediately be reached for comment.

At the funeral, Sharpton called for answers from Hancock County.

“The issue to me is not what she was thinking, but what was the police thinking,” he said.

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