Family demands answers, justice in death of Brianna Grier at her Atlanta funeral

Grier died almost a week after she fell off the back of a patrol car in Hancock County
081122 Atlanta, Ga.: A photograph of Brianna Grier is shown for her Celebration of life ceremony at West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Thursday, August 11, 2022, in Atlanta. Grier is the woman who died after Hancock Police officers left the door open on the back of the police car after arresting her.  (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

081122 Atlanta, Ga.: A photograph of Brianna Grier is shown for her Celebration of life ceremony at West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Thursday, August 11, 2022, in Atlanta. Grier is the woman who died after Hancock Police officers left the door open on the back of the police car after arresting her. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Family members and friends and local and state leaders gathered in Atlanta Thursday to celebrate the life of Brianna Grier, who died after falling out of a patrol car in Hancock County last month.

Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton led the processional into West Hunter Baptist Church and delivered the eulogy.

“The program says we come to celebrate her life but we also come to condemn her passing,” Sharpton said. “Her life matters and that’s why we are here and will stay here.”

A funeral also will be held Friday in Sparta, where Grier will be buried.

081122 Atlanta, Ga.: Marvin Grier holds up one of his granddaughters during the celebration of life for his daughter Brianna Grier at West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Thursday, August 11, 2022, in Atlanta. Grier is the woman who died after Hancock Police officers left the door open on the back of the police car after arresting her. Brianna is survived by her two twin daughters, one of which pictured. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

icon to expand image

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Grier, 28, died July 21 at Grady Memorial Hospital, almost a week after she fell from the back of a moving Hancock County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle after she was arrested July 15 at her Sparta home. According to the GBI, deputies Timothy Legette and Marlin Primus said they thought they had closed the back passenger door after placing her in the back of the vehicle and driving off but in fact had not done so. Grier’s hands were cuffed in front of her and she didn’t have a seatbelt on.

An independent medical review showed Grier died from injuries suffered after falling out of the vehicle. Pathologist Dr. Allecia Wilson of the University of Michigan was hired by the family to look into the cause of death and found Grier died from injuries related to blunt force trauma. An official cause of death has not been released by the GBI.

081122 Atlanta, Ga.: Rev. Al Shaprton, top center, talks with one of the two daughters of Brianna Grier as she is held by a family member as they view the open casket during the celebration of life for Brianna Grier at West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Thursday, August 11, 2022, in Atlanta. Grier is the woman who died after Hancock Police officers left the door open on the back of the police car after arresting her. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

icon to expand image

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Sharpton stood next to Grier’s open casket and consoled her family, including her 3-year-old twin daughters. Sharpton pledged $5,000 from his organization, the National Action Network, to set up an educational fund for Grier’s daughters.

“One day, we will have to tell them the story of what happened to their mother but the troubling thing is that they will ask, ‘why did it happen?’ I’m here today to join others in saying that Georgia is going to have to start answering why this keeps happening,” Sharpton said.

Sharpton demanded action from local and state officials during the eulogy.

“If the county don’t do something about Brianna, we are going to the Justice Department,” he said.

Family attorney Ben Crump spoke about the need for justice and brought to the podium Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, shot to death by police on March 13, 2020.

“We are going to stand up for Brianna. We are going to speak up for Brianna and we are going to get justice for Brianna,” Crump said. “In 2020, we were demanding to know what happened to Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. Now, in 2022, we are demanding (to know) what happened to Brianna Grier in the state of Georgia.”

081122 Atlanta, Ga.: Attorney Ben Crump speaks during the celebration of life for Brianna Grier at West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Thursday, August 11, 2022, in Atlanta. Grier is the woman who died after Hancock Police officers left the door open on the back of the police car after arresting her. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

icon to expand image

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Following the celebration of life, Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs, Grier’s family and family members of people who have been killed by police went to the Georgia State Capitol demanding action by state officials to hold police accountable and provide mental health resources to those in need.

“Our elected officials can do what’s necessary to prevent these (deaths) from happening,” Griggs said. “There is no reason for a 28-year-old to be laying in a casket right now when this could have easily been intervened with a crisis intervention or someone trained to deal with mental health distress.”

Grier’s family called the police on July 15 because she was having a mental health crisis.

“Her parents did the right thing, they called the law. She was going through an episode. She needed help,” Sharpton said. “Her parents called for help. They did not call to have a funeral for their daughter.”

081122 Atlanta, Ga.: Lottie Grier, sister of Brianna Grier, gets emotional as she speaks of her late sister during the celebration of life for Brianna Grier at West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Thursday, August 11, 2022, in Atlanta. Grier is the woman who died after Hancock Police officers left the door open on the back of the police car after arresting her. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

icon to expand image

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Grier’s sister, Lottie Grier, described Brianna as caring and loving person, who not only loved her children but her nieces and nephews.

Brianna’s mother, Mary Grier, said she thanks God for bringing all her children into her life.

“I’m going to miss Brianna and I do want justice for her murder,” Mary Grier said.

Marvin Grier, her father, said he and his wife adopted Brianna when she was just about a week old. He said they called the police that night for help and didn’t hear anything until the police told them that Brianna had allegedly kicked the police car open and jumped out.

He has had a hard time explaining what happened to his twin granddaughters.

“We are here to seek justice, accountability and transparency,” he said. “We need answers.”

About the Author