SPARTA, Ga. — More than a dozen demonstrators marched Wednesday in the visitors’ parking lot of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office protesting the death of 28-year-old Brianna Marie Grier.
Grier died last week after falling out of an unsecured door of a patrol car.
Agents have concluded the rear passenger’s side door of the patrol car, near where Grier was sitting, was never closed, according to GBI findings.
About a half-hour into Wednesday’s protest Hancock County Sheriff Terrell Primus came out of the sheriff’s office and addressed the crowd.
Primus offered his condolences to Grier’s family.
“I talked to them anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes,” Primus said. “I basically gave them the facts of the case, based on the incident report that the deputies wrote.”
Primus said he would release body cam video footage of the incident once the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had completed its investigation.
“At this time, it’s still an ongoing investigation,” Primus said. “A lot of people have already drawn their own conclusions. Some people already feel as though we have things to hide. But we do not have anything to hide. The video footage will show evidence based on what has been stated already.”
Grier’s parents have retained civil rights lawyer Ben Crump as their legal counsel. Crump has been an attorney in several high-profile civil rights cases in recent years. He represented the family of Ahmaud Arbery, the jogger killed in a Brunswick neighborhood in 2020.
Crump issued a statement earlier this week.
“Brianna Grier was a beautiful young mother, who should be alive,” Crump said in a prepared statement. “It is the responsibility of law enforcement to keep everyone in their custody safe and alive, including when there is a mental health crisis.”
Crump said his team will investigate the matter further and determine for themselves what failures led to Grier’s death.
“Everybody knows that is not supposed to be possible to open a police vehicle from the backseat, especially when a person is in handcuffs,” Crump said. “Brianna’s family had faith in law enforcement to get her the help she needed, and now they are being forced to drive her completely unnecessary death.”
During Friday’s press conference, Crump said, “Yet again, we have another African American citizen killed in just an unbelievable way while in the custody of the police.”
Crump promised Grier’s parents that he and his team would not allow the death of their baby daughter to be swept under the rug.
Griggs also spoke at the press conference.
“To the Hancock County sheriff, it’s time to be transparent,” Griggs said. “It’s time to be accountable. To the GBI, it’s time for y’all to meet with this family. To the governor, it’s time for you recognize, again, that Georgia has a police accountability problem.”
Crump also plans to call for an independent autopsy once Grier’s body is released from the GBI Crime Lab in Decatur.
Authorities have not yet released the findings of the GBI crime lab autopsy.
Mary Chandler, special agent-in-charge of the GBI office in Milledgeville, issued a press release Wednesday on what the GBI investigation has yielded so far.
“Agents have concluded that the rear passenger side door of the patrol car, near where Grier was sitting, was never closed,” according to the press release.
Chandler said agents have conducted interviews, reviewed body cam videos, and conducted mechanical tests on the patrol car.
Law enforcement patrol vehicles used to transport a person to a city or county jail after an arrest are designed with rear doors that automatically lock when shut.
Automotive experts and the Georgia State Patrol assisted with the GBI tests to determine if there was a mechanical malfunction involving the patrol car’s rear door.
The patrol car was en route to take Grier to the Hancock County Detention Center in Sparta following her arrest on charges of public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
The two deputies from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office who responded to the call attempted to place Grier into the patrol car, but she was uncooperative, Primus said.
Both deputies went to the driver’s side rear door of the patrol car and opened it.
The GBI’s probe revealed that Grier was on the ground at the time, refusing to get into the patrol car.
One of the deputies walked around the patrol car and opened the passenger’s side rear door to place Grier into the patrol car. The deputy then returned to assist the other deputy at the driver’s side rear door, the GBI investigation determined.
“Both deputies put Grier in the backseat of the patrol car,” according to the latest GBI press release. “The deputies closed the rear driver’s side door. The investigation shows that the deputy thought he closed the rear passenger side door.”
With Grier handcuffed in the front, but not wearing a seat belt, the deputy in that car drove a short distance before she fell out of the moving car.
Grier’s mother called 911 on July 15, saying her daughter was at her residence on Hickory Grove Church Road threatening her and her father, according to Primus.
He said earlier in the week that deputies have been called several times to transport Grier.
“We know that Brianna Grier had mental problems because we have had to transport her on numerous occasions to mental facilities here in the state of Georgia,” Primus said. “Her mother is aware of that and her mother has called us several times to do that. When this happened, her mother wanted us to take her to a hospital. Her mother is well aware that her daughter had mental problems, just as well as a drug problem.”
The investigation by the GBI is still ongoing.
Grier’s injuries were so severe that she went into a coma and was flown by medical helicopter from the scene of the incident to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
She died July 21.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.