A Georgia woman having what her family described as a mental health crisis died Thursday after authorities said she “fell out” of a patrol car last week, even though, according to a policing expert, cruisers are always supposed to be locked from the inside.
Brianna Grier, 28, was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.
Grier had been in a coma since the encounter last week in Hancock County, roughly 100 miles southeast of Atlanta, her sister, Lottie Grier, said in an interview.
Her ventilator was removed after a doctor told relatives that she was "brain dead," Lottie Grier said.
The Grier family first spoke to Macon TV station WMAZ.
In the statement, the bureau said an early investigation into the death shows that deputies arrested Grier and were taking her to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office when she "fell out of a patrol car and sustained significant injuries."
The agency did not provide additional details about the circumstances of Grier's death and said the investigation into the incident, which was requested by Hancock County Sheriff Terrell Primus on July 15, is ongoing. The deputies involved in the incident have not been identified.
A person who answered the phone at the sheriff’s office on Thursday declined to comment.
"Something went wrong and we want answers," Brianna Grier's father, Marvin Grier, said. "Something went wrong and my daughter is gone."
Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina and an expert on police training, said in a text message that patrol cars are “ALWAYS supposed to be locked from the inside.”
"Otherwise," he added, "prisoners would be letting themselves out all the time."
Alpert said he thinks child locks are used to secure police vehicle doors. He’d never before heard of someone escaping from a cruiser, he said.
Marvin Grier said his wife called authorities on the night of July 14 because their daughter, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia nearly a decade ago and was medicated for the condition but used illegal drugs to cope, was having a mental health crisis.
During previous similar episodes, he said ambulances were dispatched to the family's home and she was cared for in a medical setting. Last week, two deputies came in a patrol car instead, Marvin Grier said.
"She needs help," Marvin Grier recalled telling the officers.
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.
At roughly 6 a.m. on July 15, he said an officer came to the family's home and said that Brianna "kicked the door open and jumped out of the car."
She suffered a head fracture and was airlifted to Grady Memorial, her father recalled the officer saying.
Authorities provided the family with no other details about what happened and they have not heard from investigators in the days since, Marvin Grier said.
"Her sisters, her brothers, her babies — we need answers," Marvin Grier said. "Want to know the truth."
Brianna Grier leaves behind 3-year-old twin girls, he said.