At this point, it couldn’t be any more clear that police officers shouldn’t be responding to mental health calls, especially when Black people need help—because all they know how to do is be cops.
Last Thursday, a 28-year-old Black woman died after being in a coma from an encounter with police that somehow ended with her falling out of a police cruiser. This has left her family and others wondering how she fell out of a police car that should have been locked from the inside.
But there’s another question that’s worth asking: Why was she handcuffed and arrested in the first place?
Let’s start from the beginning.
According to NBC News, it all started when Brianna Grier of Hancock County, Georgia, which is roughly 100 miles southeast of Atlanta, was experiencing what her family described as a mental health crisis on July 14. She was schizophrenic and her family called 911 to get her the help she needed. Her father, Marvin Grier, and his wife said that in the past, they called 911 when their daughter needed help, and ambulances were dispatched to the scene—but this time, two Hancock County Sheriff’s deputies arrived.
“She needs help,” Marvin said he told the deputies. But instead of immediately getting her the medical help she needed, the officers handcuffed and arrested her.
His daughter told the deputies that she’d been drinking, Marvin Grier recalled, so one of the deputies said they would detain her for intoxication until the morning, when she could get medical attention.
Before their patrol car left, Marvin Grier said he watched the deputies handcuff his daughter and place her in the vehicle’s back seat.
They never made it to the jail, Marvin Grier said.
Again, why the intoxication arrest? Why was that even necessary if she wasn’t driving or attacking anyone? And why wait until the next morning to get her medical assistance when her family was calling to get her help immediately? These are questions that need answering before we even get to how she “fell out of a patrol car and sustained significant injuries,” according to a statement by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
In fact, according to WMAZ 13, Sheriff Terrell Primus visited the family after the incident and told them that Grier “kicked her way out the deputy’s cruiser.”
But how? How does a handcuffed person kick open a patrol car door from the inside? How does a person sustain injuries serious enough to put them in a coma after falling out of a car?
“Something went wrong and we want answers,” Marvin said. “Something went wrong and my daughter is gone.”
“If I had known it was going to turn out like this, God knows I wouldn’t have called to come and get her,” Grier’s mother, Mary Grier, told WMAZ. “I just broke down and cried because it’s just ridiculous how she laying up there with tubes and pipes everywhere on her for no reason because it didn’t have to be that. It didn’t have to be that.”
Eventually, Grier’s ventilator was removed after a doctor told her family she was “brain dead,” according to her sister, Lottie Grier.
As for how Brianna Grier was able to kick open a police car door, Mary has her theories.
“If she got out the car, they had to let her out the car. That’s my interpretation because in a police car, you can’t open the door from the inside, so it had to be opened from the outside,” she said.
Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminal justice professor and police training expert told NBC via text that deputy patrol cars are “ALWAYS supposed to be locked from the inside.”
“Otherwise, prisoners would be letting themselves out all the time,” he added.
Brianna Grier left behind 3-year-old twin girls. Authorities said the investigation into her arrest and death are still ongoing, but the family says they have received no new details.
So, what the hell really happened here?
While we’re trying to figure that out, Grier’s family has launched a GoFundMe with a $20,000 goal to “help with the funeral and other unexpected expenses.”