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Saturday, 24 April 2021

Black librarian, 68, sues white cops who 'pulled her from car by her hair and tore muscles in her shoulder during a traffic stop after she was caught speeding on her way to funeral'

 A black librarian has filed a federal lawsuit claiming white cops in used excessive force by pulling her from her car by her hair during a traffic stop in North Carolina.

Stephanie Bottom, of Atlanta, Georgia, was driving to the funeral of her great aunt in May 2019 when she was seen by police allegedly going 80mph in a 70mph zone. 

The 68-year-old says initially did not realize that cops were trying to stop her, and that their aggressive actions when she pulled over left her with injuries including a torn rotator cuff. 


Bodycam footage from the incident shows officers approach Bottom's vehicle with guns drawn.

Within seconds of the stop, cops are seen dragged her out of the car by her hair, and pulling her arm behind her back to handcuff her, all while she screams out in pain. 

In the suit filed on Wednesday, Brown - who was 66 at the time of the incident - claims she posed no threat to the officers from the Salisbury Police Department and the Rowan County Sheriff's Office.

But officers approached her vehicle with guns drawn and later violated her rights by using excessive force, the lawsuit said. 

Stephanie Bottom is suing the police over her arrest in May 2019 which left her with a torn rotator cuff

Stephanie Bottom is suing the police over her arrest in May 2019 which left her with a torn rotator cuff

Elderly woman violently dragged from her car during arrest
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Body cam footage shows that in a matter of a few seconds, Bottom appears to be taken out of the car by force and pinned to the ground, with her face down and officers pushing on her arm.

Another angle appears to show an officer grabbing Bottom by her hair when yanking her from the car.

'Within five seconds of arriving at her drivers’ side door with guns drawn, Defendants Benfield and Barkalow grabbed Plaintiff by her arm and hair and threw her from her Toyota Sequoia to the ground,' the lawsuit says. 


The officers are then seen pinning both of her arms behind her back to put handcuffs on Bottom.

'Why are you doing this to me,' she asks.

Bottom begins crying and asks what she's done wrong as officers tell her she is under arrest, although it turns out she was never formally arrested.

After allegedly pulling her out of her car by her hair, Bottom was left on the ground

After allegedly pulling her out of her car by her hair, Bottom was left on the ground

As officers search the car - which Bottom alleges she did not consent to - one explains that three police cars have been following her for around 10 miles, which Bottom agreed with, as officers explain how she was speeding.

The officers also say it could've been a simple traffic stop before putting the onus of the current incident on her. 

Bottom claims at this point she was on her way to a funeral before saying that officers were hurting her shoulder.

At one point, she begged for medical attention, as well for an opportunity to call her family.

'That’s good police work, baby,' an officer involved in the stop can be heard saying later on the body camera footage

After the arrest, Bottom claimed she was listening to music loudly in her car and did not realize she was being pulled over, according to the lawsuit, a claim that can be heard in the video. 

Meanwhile, officers search her car, which Bottom alleges she didn't consent for

Meanwhile, officers search her car, which Bottom alleges she didn't consent for

Officers are then seen using their force to get Bottom to put her arms behind her back

Officers are then seen using their force to get Bottom to put her arms behind her back

She also admits to going 10 miles over the speed limit, which was 70mph, meaning she was driving around 80mph. 

When she realized officers were following her, she tried to pull over 'somewhere safe where I’d be around lights and people,' but she alleges spike strips were used to stop her car instead.

The lawsuit alleges that two officers grabbed Bottom by her arm and her hair, later throwing her out of the vehicle and onto the ground.

Once on the ground, officers twisted Bottom's arm behind her back, causing her 'shoulder to 'pop,' tearing her rotator cuff and causing severe injury,' the lawsuit said.

A Salisbury police officer involved in the stop, allegedly Devin Barkalow, 'bragged about "grabbing a handful of dreads", and said "at that point she earned it",' the lawsuit said, citing footage from the officer's body camera.

The lawsuit alleges that earlier in the stop, Barkalow also said Bottom was a 'f*****g retard' and a 'douche bag.'

Bottom said all of the arresting officers were white.

When she asked for medical assistance, she estimated that an hour elapsed before officers called for help, the lawsuit stated.

According to the Charlotte Observer, video shows an officer telling Bottom that EMS would look at her approximately 11 minutes after the stop, after which she was taken to a local hospital.

Bottom had surgery to repair the tear but the injury prevents her from raising her left arm above her head, according to the suit.

She was also unable to work for eight months following the injuries she suffered and still primarily uses her right arm to stack bookshelves, as she struggles to raise her left hand over her head.

'I was shaking in fear,' Bottom said to the Observer. 'I was getting ready to die. ... When they grabbed me and threw me to the ground, that’s when the real terror struck me that I was going to die.' 

One of the officers named in the lawsuit, Barkalow, declined to comment, but said he no longer works for the police department. He took a job with federal law enforcement in February 2020, according to Linda McElroy, a spokesperson for the city of Salisbury.

The other officers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. McElroy also declined to comment on the pending litigation. 

McElroy told the newspaper that 'the Salisbury Police always strives for positive interactions with our residents and visitors, including in cases where we may suspect criminal activity.'

Bottom pleaded guilty to failing to heed blue lights. She also was charged with speeding and resisting arrest but those were dismissed.

She is now suing the police officers who were involved in her arrest

She is now suing the police officers who were involved in her arrest

Bottom complains repeatedly during the arrest about the cops hurting her

Bottom complains repeatedly during the arrest about the cops hurting her

'Ms. Bottom was peaceful at all times, and officers knew they were dealing with an elderly woman,' said Ian Mance, a lawyer with EmancipateNC who represents Bottom. 'Our complaint alleges these officers had no reason to use any force, much less the level of force they employed. Ms. Bottom wasn't even arrested.'

In her lawsuit, Bottom alleges two separate violations of the 4th and 14th Amendments, as well as assault and battery.

Bottom wants punitive damages, compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees and other costs.

She also wants to make sure that other people are not treated the way she was during her May 2019 arrest.

Her lawsuit was immediately referred to mediation due to local court rules, according to Law & Crime

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