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Georgia woman who fell out of patrol car died of blunt force trauma to her head, expert says

An independent review of medical records found that Brianna Grier most likely hit her head on a hard object that caused her brain to shift position and swell.

Brianna Grier, the Georgia woman who died after she fell out of a patrol car last month, died of severe blunt force trauma to the head, said a doctor who reviewed medical records at the request of the victim’s family.

Grier, 28, was having a mental health crisis when her family called for help at their home in Hancock County on July 14. 

Hancock County sheriff’s deputies put Grier in a patrol car with handcuffs and no seat belt on — and failed to close the rear passenger door before they drove off. She fell from the moving vehicle and died seven days later after having been in a coma for several days.

Brianna Grier.
Brianna Grier.Courtesy Lottie Grier

Dr. Allecia Wilson, the director of autopsy and forensic services at the University of Michigan, shared the preliminary results of an independent review commissioned by Grier's family Monday, alongside civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump.

"In this case, the cause of death is consistent with the severe blunt force injury that occurred inside of the head,” she said.

Wilson said it was likely that Grier hit her head on a hard object, causing her brain to move and swell.

Grier suffered two fractures, both to the left side of her head, as well as swelling of the brain, or cerebral edema, and her brain structures were compressed, Wilson said.

Wilson showed CT scans of Grier’s brain appearing to show a scalp hemorrhage and a fracture underneath on the left side of her brain.

She noted that a hard impact to one side of the head can cause the brain to move inside the skull and injure the opposite side.

That was the case with Grier, Wilson said, pointing to a part of Grier's brain diagonally across the fracture site. "This is a large subdural hematoma, and that’s blood that is underneath the dura on the right side of the brain.

"In this case, these injuries are very severe and indicate a significant amount of force to cause these types of injuries,” Wilson said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Grier’s body would be taken to the GBI Crime Lab for an autopsy. The results have not been released. It said the case remains under investigation.

Body camera video of Grier's encounter with deputies was released.Grier’s parents tearfully carried a photo of their daughter and her 3-year-old twin girls, Maria and Mariah, at the emotional news conference. 

“My grandbabies are asking me every day where’s their mama,” Grier’s father Marvin Grier said. “And I have to send them to their grandma, ’cause I can’t send them to their mama.

“That’s why we’re here. We’re trying to get answers so we can finally tell them what happened to their mama ... so that this won’t happen anymore to any other young lady who has kids or any other parent,” he said. 

Crump said the family is still seeking answers about why Grier wasn’t secured in the patrol car with a seat belt, and he called for the release of any other body camera video from that night. 

Grier’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta.