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Family of Georgia woman who died after falling out of patrol car files $100 million civil lawsuit

The family of Brianna Grier, a Georgia mother who died after falling out of a sheriff's patrol car last summer, has filed a $100 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hancock County Sheriff's Office, it was announced Wednesday.

The wrongful death lawsuit, which was obtained by CBS News, names Hancock County Sheriff Tomlyn Primus, his brother, Lt. Marlin Primus, and Deputy Timothy Legette as defendants. 

It alleges that deputies "unlawfully and willfully seized and restrained" Grier, "falsely arrested" her, and "picked her up and dropped her multiple times, ignored her cries for help and deprived her of medical assistance, caused injury to her head and brain and ultimately caused her death, misrepresented the true facts, and defamed her."

"This young, beautiful Black woman needed help," civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Grier's family in the lawsuit, told reporters in a news conference Wednesday.

On July 15, 2022, Grier's parents called 911 because their daughter, a diagnosed schizophrenic, had allegedly threatened to hurt herself and her twin girls at a home in Sparta, Georgia.

Two responding deputies handcuffed Grier and struggled to place her into the back of a patrol car, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said at the time. 

Less than a minute into the drive, Grier somehow fell out the rear passenger door of the police car, and landed face-down by the side of the road, breathing but unconscious. She died six days later from her injuries. 

GBI stated that interviews, body camera footage and "mechanical tests" conducted on the patrol car revealed that the rear passenger side door of the car, near where Grier was sitting when she fell out, was "never closed" after she was placed in the vehicle. 

The defendants "acted jointly and in concert with each other," the complaint alleges. "Each defendant had the duty and the opportunity to defend" Grier from "the unlawful actions of the other defendants, but each defendant failed and refused to perform such a duty, thereby proximately causing the injuries herein complained of."

Grier's family, however, said that the Hancock County sheriff later told them she fell out after kicking open the door.  

"They tried to say that Brianna Grier, this 120-pound, young Black woman, mother of twin daughters ... had super-human strength and kicked open the police door," Crump said Wednesday while joined by members of Grier's family. "That's what they wanted us to believe, they wanted us to just sweep it under the rug. Well thank God that you have a family who said, 'That's not true.' They wanted answers because the reality is they never closed that door and secured that vehicle. And when they were on the road she fell out of that car, and since she was handcuffed there was no breaking the fall."

"There is no excuse, no justification for why Brianna Grier is dead and for why she died in such a horrific manner," Crump added. 

CBS News reached out to the Hancock County Sheriff's Office for comment, but did not immediately hear back. 

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