Hancock County mom’s family suing over arrest death

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 11:10 AM EDT|Updated: May. 24, 2023 at 12:52 PM EDT
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DECATUR, Ga. - Lawyers for the family of Brianna Grier on Wednesday announced a lawsuit over her death after she fell out of a patrol car following her arrest in Hancock County.

Prominent civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump and co-counsel Eric Hertz made the announcement at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Old Decatur Courthouse.

Crump said the deputies were grossly negligent and tried to change their stories.


“They tried to say Brianna Grier, a 120-pound woman, mother of two twins, and they tried to say she had superhuman strength and kicked open the door,” Crump said. “They tried to sweep it under the rug.”

The lawsuit names Lt. Marlin Primus, Deputy Timothy Legette and Sheriff Tomlyn Primus as defendants and claims that they participated in gross negligence that led to Grier’s wrongful death.

Grier, a 28-year-old Black mother of 5-year-old twin girls, was arrested after sheriff’s deputies were called to her parents’ home in Sparta. Her family called 911 for help because Grier was experiencing a mental health crisis.

“There is no excuse, no justification why Brianna Grier is dead and why she died in such a horrific manner, falling out the back of an unsecured police vehicle traveling on the highway, her head colliding with the concrete on the street,” Crump said.

The deputies put Grier in the back of a patrol car, but she was not wearing a seatbelt, her hands were cuffed in front of her and the rear passenger-side door was never closed, according to the Georgia Bureau Investigation.

The GBI announced in November that its investigation was complete and that the Ocmulgee Circuit district attorney had decided not to bring the case before a grand jury for possible charges.

“My baby, Brianna Grier, she wasn’t an animal. She wasn’t a bad person,” Grier’s mother, Mary Grier, told reporters. “She just had some problems she couldn’t control.”

Full 10-minute video (viewer discretion is advised; uncensored profanity throughout the video):.

Grier’s family had previously called law enforcement for help with her episodes and the responding deputies were aware of her history as a diagnosed schizophrenic and knew she was having “an acute mental health episode,” the lawsuit says.

Hertz said there’s a big problem in Georgia with the way people who are experiencing mental health problems are dealt with by police.

“This is not the first incident, but we hope it will be the last,” he said. “It is our goal in this case to get the highest verdict there’s ever been in Georgia for a case of this type to send a message all the way up to the top that this should not happen.”

Attorney Gerald Griggs, who’s president of the Georgia NAACP, said Georgia’s mental health services must be fully funded and there should be a mandate that every police department send crisis interveners for mental health calls.

“Brianna Grier should be here raising her two beautiful daughters instead of us standing outside of a courthouse demanding justice for her,” Griggs said.

Mary Grier said her 5-year-old twin granddaughters, Maria and Mariah, constantly ask for their mother. Mary Grier’s husband — Brianna’s father — died a couple of months after Brianna did, and she said she feels “broken, truly broken.”