Vietnam veteran, 68, with dementia died from being body-slammed by Alabama police officer after mistakenly trying to enter home he believed was his own


When Carl Grant awoke from emergency surgery and couldn’t move, he apologized to family gathered around his hospital bed.

In the fog of dementia, the US Marine Corps veteran thought he’d been paralyzed in the Vietnam War.

The truth: It was February 2020, he was 68, and a police officer had wrecked the spinal cord in his neck by slamming him onto an emergency room floor.

Grant’s family decided not to correct him. He was already confused enough.

‘We left it like that, we didn’t know how he’d react,’ his sister, Kathy Jenkins, recalled.

Carl Grant in bed in UAB Hospital hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, after he awoke from surgery, paralyzed from the neck down. The cuts on his forehead are from being pushed down porch stairs by the same officer who destroyed his spinal cord

Carl Grant in bed in UAB Hospital hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, after he awoke from surgery, paralyzed from the neck down. The cuts on his forehead are from being pushed down porch stairs by the same officer who destroyed his spinal cord

Birmingham Police bodycam just after Grant was body-slammed on the floor of the hospital by police, before they turned over his limp body and handcuffed him

Birmingham Police bodycam just after Grant was body-slammed on the floor of the hospital by police, before they turned over his limp body and handcuffed him

The story of how Grant ended up paralyzed began that Super Bowl Sunday, February 2, when Grant drove off from his Conyers, Georgia, home to shop for groceries.

It was to be a quick trip, so he left his cellphone at home and the heater on. Along the way, Grant became disoriented and turned his Kia Optima onto Interstate 20, driving west into the fading light.

More than two hours later, he was in Birmingham, Alabama, using his keys in the dark to try to unlock the door to a stranger’s house. It was a one story brick home, just like his.

The owner called 911. Grant assured responding officers that this was home. They handcuffed Grant, but realized he wasn’t a burglar — he truly thought he lived there. One officer recognized signs of dementia. 

Back at the precinct, a sergeant would tell officers they should have called medics for an evaluation and notified a supervisor. Instead, police told Grant to move along.

He did and, about an hour later and less than half a mile away, officers responding to a burglary call found Grant sitting in a porch chair. Again Grant insisted he was home, and could prove it with paperwork inside.

Grant stood up and turned toward the front door. Body-camera video shows Officer Vincent Larry telling Grant he couldn’t enter and then shoving him down the porch steps.

Officer Vincent Larry (pictured) was the policeman who pushed Grant down the porch stairs, arrested him, took him to hospital for the head injury, then threw him to the ground in the ER

Officer Vincent Larry (pictured) was the policeman who pushed Grant down the porch stairs, arrested him, took him to hospital for the head injury, then threw him to the ground in the ER

This family photo shows Carl Grant, his partner, Ronda Hernandez, and their dog, Charlie, at the house they shared in Conyers, Georgia, in 2019. After Grant's dementia diagnosis, they moved from California to Georgia, to be near his brother and sister

This family photo shows Carl Grant, his partner, Ronda Hernandez, and their dog, Charlie, at the house they shared in Conyers, Georgia, in 2019. After Grant’s dementia diagnosis, they moved from California to Georgia, to be near his brother and sister

In this family photo, Carl Grant prepares to cook in the home he shared with his partner, Ronda Hernandez, in Redlands, California circa 2000

In this family photo, Carl Grant prepares to cook in the home he shared with his partner, Ronda Hernandez, in Redlands, California circa 2000

Grant was facedown on the ground as Larry and other officers struggled to handcuff him. As they did, Grant cried out, ‘Call the police!’

These officers also began to recognize signs of confusion — Grant couldn’t tell them the day of the week or year. 

A sergeant asked Larry if they should take Grant into protective custody. Larry continued with the arrest, saying Grant assaulted him. 

Larry would write in his report Grant struck him with a closed fist, though he later told internal police investigators the shove caused Grant to turn and punch as he fell.

Larry went with Grant to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital to be treated for a forehead gash from the fall.

That took a few hours. Now it was 3am Grant stepped out of an exam room, the officer wrote in his report, and told Larry he was going to charge his cellphone – the one his mind didn’t grasp was nearly 200 miles away. 

Larry wrote that he told Grant to stay because they would soon be discharged, but Grant refused.

Hospital surveillance video shows Larry reach for Grant’s arm and flip him over in what the police investigation described as a ‘hip toss’ not taught at the academy. Grant landed on his back. 

A nurse estimated his head bounced four inches off the floor. His body was limp.

Larry rolled Grant over to his stomach and handcuffed him. It was the third time he had been restrained in six hours.

Grant died almost six months later on July 24, 2020. The death certificate worksheet lists his paralysis as the cause, attributing it to ‘physical assault with body slam.’

Birmingham Police Department body-camera video of Carl Grant on the porch of a stranger's home in Birmingham, Alabama, after police were called there on February 2, 2020

Birmingham Police Department body-camera video of Carl Grant on the porch of a stranger’s home in Birmingham, Alabama, after police were called there on February 2, 2020

Grant, due to his dementia, thought the house was his, despite living two hours' drive away. He was shoved down the porch stairs and taken to hospital for a head injury the fall gave him

Grant, due to his dementia, thought the house was his, despite living two hours’ drive away. He was shoved down the porch stairs and taken to hospital for a head injury the fall gave him

Grant had been a proud Marine who enlisted at 18 in 1969, following the example of a favored uncle.

He settled in California after nearly a decade of active duty, continued to serve as a reservist, opened a trucking business, and 

He also met Ronda Hernandez, who would become his partner of 30 years. They have two children, Michael and Michelle.

By his early 60s, the more tired Grant got, the more confused he became. Doctors diagnosed him with early-onset dementia. 

He also had post-traumatic stress disorder and health issues from Agent Orange exposure during combat in Vietnam.

After the dementia diagnosis, Grant moved from California to Conyers, Georgia, to be near his brother and sister.

Hernandez watched Grant’s mind begin to falter. By 2019, he would sometimes get lost running errands or forget to turn off the television — but he still remembered family.

Grant and Hernandez used to sit outside their house for hours, stargazing and talking.

‘Whether he remembered anything or remembered me, we’d still be right here next to each other. We’d be sitting on the porch

He’d be smoking his pipe,’ she said. ‘I could still tuck him into bed, give him a kiss, say ‘I love you.’ I can’t do that now.’

‘We were robbed,’ said his sister Kathy Jenkins, whose anger has not subsided four years after Grant’s death. 

‘It’s like somebody went in your house and just took something, and you were violated.’ 

This family photo shows Carl Grant and his partner, Ronda Hernandez, and her children, Michael and Michelle, in a friend's backyard in California in the mid-1990s

This family photo shows Carl Grant and his partner, Ronda Hernandez, and her children, Michael and Michelle, in a friend’s backyard in California in the mid-1990s

Grant in front of his truck after he started a trucking business in California in the mid-1990s

Grant in front of his truck after he started a trucking business in California in the mid-1990s

Grant (second right) with his family at his retirement ceremony from the US Marine Corps in California in 1999. At center in white jacket is his partner, Ronda Hernandez; background left is his sister, Kathy Jenkins, and his brother, William Jenkins, right

Grant (second right) with his family at his retirement ceremony from the US Marine Corps in California in 1999. At center in white jacket is his partner, Ronda Hernandez; background left is his sister, Kathy Jenkins, and his brother, William Jenkins, right

Grant’s death was among more than 1,000 across the US that an investigation led by The Associated Press documented after police used tactics like the hip toss that, unlike guns, are meant to stop people without killing them.

More than 20 of those who died in these encounters, which also included weapons such as Tasers, were 65 or older. 

Many others were, like Grant, vulnerable due to a crisis brought on by their physical or mental health, or due to drug use.

The Birmingham Police Department’s investigation concluded Officer Larry used excessive force at the hospital. The punishment: a 15-day suspension and retraining.

Larry was still on the job in August 2020, posing with another cop at a local clothing shop after they jumped into a promo shot that later went viral on social media, less than three weeks after Grant died.

A civil lawsuit filed by Grant’s brother in 2022 focuses on the need for better training for first responders on how to recognize and respond to vulnerable people. 

Birmingham attorneys Richard Rice and Johnathan Austin are representing Grant’s brother, William Jenkins.

‘If you can’t stand up and say that what happened to Carl Grant was wrong, it just shows how much ground we have to cover to be able to really have a conversation about police accountability,’ Rice said.

A judge dismissed the case without addressing the allegations of excessive force. 

The city and the officer had argued they were not given notice that a lawsuit would be filed before a legal deadline. 

Jenkins’ lawyers are appealing and the appeals court has ordered the parties to mediate.

‘Grant was never physically, emotionally or mentally the same man as he was who walked into the UAB ER. He walked into the hospital and was beaten, paralyzed and left dead,’ the lawsuit stated.

Larry was no longer employed by the city as of September, the mayor’s office said. He’s now working as a part-time police officer in the suburbs outside Birmingham. 

Relatives of Carl Grant, from left, his sister, Kathy Jenkins; brother, William Jenkins, and Grant's partner, Ronda Hernandez, stand for a portrait in Birmingham, Alabama

Relatives of Carl Grant, from left, his sister, Kathy Jenkins; brother, William Jenkins, and Grant’s partner, Ronda Hernandez, stand for a portrait in Birmingham, Alabama

Ronda Hernandez: 'I could still tuck him into bed, give him a kiss, say I love you. I can't do that now.'

Ronda Hernandez: ‘I could still tuck him into bed, give him a kiss, say I love you. I can’t do that now.’

Larry (right) with fellow Birmingham Police officer Justin Judge, and Corey Bishop, owner of Refresh Clothing, in August 2020 - weeks after Grant died

Larry (right) with fellow Birmingham Police officer Justin Judge, and Corey Bishop, owner of Refresh Clothing, in August 2020 – weeks after Grant died

Graysville Police Chief McKinsley Marbury said his department opted to give Larry a second chance and he’s doing great.

‘You always keep what someone does in the back of your head,’ Marbury said. 

‘There are so many things that we ask the Lord to forgive us for, that we probably are not worthy of forgiveness for. But he does. 

‘And if he can do it for us, we, as people, should be able to do it for someone else.’

In court paperwork, Larry denied he committed an unprovoked assault on Grant at the hospital. His attorney declined to make him available for an interview.

Grant was Black. Larry is too. They were in a city central to the Civil Rights Movement.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Police Chief Scott Thurmond have spoken out about police brutality elsewhere. Neither agreed to talk about this case.



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