68-year-old woman sues NC police for violent traffic stop recorded on body camera
Stephanie Bottom filed a federal lawsuit against NC police claiming officers violated her rights by using excessive force
A 68-year-old Black woman has filed a federal lawsuit after a violent interaction with North Carolina police during a traffic stop in May 2019.
The Charlotte Observer reported Stephanie Bottom, an Atlanta native and librarian, filed her lawsuit on April 21 and claimed a group of white officers used excessive force when they pulled her over. According to the lawsuit, the police grabbed the then 66-year-old by her hair, and threw her to the ground resulting in a torn rotator cuff. Video footage captured by body cameras worn by the officers prove Bottom’s claims of physical harm.
The officers, from the Salisbury Police Department and Rowan County Sheriff’s Department, pulled Bottom over as she drove to a funeral. She was stopped for driving 80 mph in a 70 mph zone and for failing to heed blue lights. When officers approached her car, their firearms were drawn.
The Observer obtained the video footage which shows Bottom, crying in handcuffs, asking “what have I done wrong?”
“Ma’am, there were three police cars behind you for about 10 miles,” one of the officers replied.
Bottom informed the outlet that her injuries kept her from working for eight months, resulting in a loss of wages. She said she also experienced extreme terror.
“I was shaking in fear,” Bottom said in an interview with the Charlotte 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.
WBTV reported the city of Salisbury, North Carolina provided a statement about the case:
“The Salisbury Police Department strives for positive interactions with our residents and visitors, including in cases where we may suspect criminal activity. As is standard, we are unable to comment on pending litigation.”
Bottom had surgery for her injury, but is no longer able to raise her left arm above her head according to the suit.
“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 is representing Bottom, according to CBS News. “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.”
According to WBTV, community members want more from the Salisbury Police and Rowan Sheriff.
“This week, we watched as a 2019 traffic stop video surfaced of officers from Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and Salisbury Police Department using excessive force to arrest Stephanie Bottom, a 68-year-old Black librarian from Atlanta,” wrote Gemale Black, President of the Salisbury-Rowan chapter of the NAACP in a statement.
“Unprofessional conduct, inappropriate comments, and excessive force use negatively impacts police-citizen relationships. The actions of officers who abuse their power makes it hard for individuals to trust law enforcement. Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and Salisbury Police Department must hold the individuals in the video accountable. Show our community and nation that law enforcement who enforce the law, must also abide by the same law.”
The local NAACP chapter called for the release of the bodycam footage, a transparent investigation, a review of current policies, creation of new policies, and for the Rowan County Sheriff’s office to update its mission statement.
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