Brianna Grier was arrested last July in Hancock County, Georgia, after suffering an episode of mental health. However, the police forgot to close the back door of their patrol car and Grier fell, sustaining injuries that ultimately led to his death six days later.
This week, Grier’s family filed a $100 million lawsuit against the officers who arrested Grier, claiming their actions constituted excessive force that violated his constitutional rights.
According to trial, Grier, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was visiting her parents and 3-year-old twin daughters when she called 911, saying she was having an anxiety attack and needed to take her medication . Two officers, Lt. Marlin Primus and Deputy Timothy Legette, arrived soon after and arrested Grier. According to the complaint, Primus “claimed he could smell alcohol on Brianna Grier, stating that he accused Grier of ‘public drunkenness,'” although Legette “later admitted to Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials ( GBI) that he hadn’t smelled alcohol” on his.
According to the complaint, Grier herself insisted she was not drunk, and when Grier’s bodily fluids were later tested, no alcohol was found in her system.
The complaint states that Primus and Legette handcuffed Grier—who, in body camera footage of the incident, she can be heard threatening to harm herself if arrested. The couple then forced Grier into the back of Legette’s patrol car, where she may have hit her head. According to the complaint, Primus “failed to protect Grier’s head while hoisting and lifting Grier into the vehicle” and “Grier can be heard audibly exclaiming until his head crossed the threshold of the rear door on the driver’s side of Deputy Legettes’ patrol car. Once Grier’s head pops through the ceiling of the car’s doorframe, Grier suddenly goes silent.”
A few minutes later, the two officers drove off, leaving the rear passenger side door of the patrol car open. Minutes later, Grier, who had not been buckled into the car, fell from the patrol car.
In body camera footage of the incident, the two officers can be seen approaching an unconscious Grier, lying face down on the side of the road. “Sit down, sit down, sit down,” Primus said, moving Grier into a seated position, adding “she jumped in the car.” While the couple’s statements are sometimes hard to hear in the body camera footage released, the complaint says Legette added, “We’re going to need an ambulance.”
However, none of the officers attempted to administer first aid. As the couple waited for an ambulance, Primus said Grier “just bailed out. I might not have closed that door. This I do not know. That, I don’t know,” after which he waved Legette off. his body camera.
Grier was eventually airlifted to a hospital in Atlanta. The lawsuit says Grier had “several skull fractures when she arrived at the hospital” and was “declared brain dead”, succumbing to her injuries six days later. Last November, the Hancock County prosecutor announcement that he would not seek criminal charges against the officers.
“A state actor cannot arrest and handcuff an individual, place them in a dangerous situation, and then claim no fault if the person is harmed precisely by the danger created by state actors,” the complaint states. “As an immediate consequence of reckless and/or reckless actions and omissions described above, Grier was injured, endured physical pain and mental suffering, and was killed.”
Grier’s case shows how easily 911 calls seeking medical attention for someone suffering from mental illness can end in tragedy. The police’s aggressive arrest of Grier and their negligence in not securing him in the car and securing the patrol car door, the complaint alleges, directly caused his needless death.
But Brianna Grier didn’t need to be arrested, she needed an ambulance – something she parents say had been called in during their daughter’s previous mental health episode, but instead she got two cops.