An elderly Black librarian was yanked by her hair and pulled out of her car in May 2019, newly released bodycam footage has revealed

Elderly black librarian dragged by hair from car by white police officer

‘The officers need to be held accountable for what they did to me so this doesn’t happen to anyone else,’ says Stephanie Bottom

Maroosha Muzaffar
Wednesday 28 April 2021 13:22
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A black librarian was dragged by her hair and yanked out of her car at a traffic stop in North Carolina, newly released bodycam footage has revealed.

Stephanie Bottom, then 66, was driving her car to Raleigh for her great aunt’s funeral on 30 May, 2019 when, Salisbury police and Rowan County sheriff deputies attempted to pull her over for speeding on Interstate 85 — she was driving 80mph in a 70mph zone and failed to stop for their blue lights.

They used spike strips to stop her car and when the officers approached her, they had their guns drawn.

The video clip was released after Ms Bottom, an Atlanta librarian and grandmother of five, filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday. All the officers she is suing are white.

The video shows Salisbury Deputy Mark Benfield approaching Ms Bottom’s car with his gun drawn before grabbing her hair and dragging her to the ground.

Mr Benfield and another officer, Devin Barkalow, then struggle to put handcuffs on her while she lies face-down on the side of the road.

The footage shows Ms Bottoms asking: “Why are you doing this to me? I was just driving. What have I done wrong?”

One officer is heard saying: “Ma’am, there were three police cars behind you for about 10 miles.”

In the lawsuit, Ms Bottoms said that she did not realise immediately that police were trying to pull her over — she said she was listening to loud music — and that she was trying to look for a safe place to stop when the police used spike strips to stop her car.

Before she could get an answer, the officers tore Ms Bottom’s rotator cuff as she lay face-down on the pavement, causing her to shriek and cry: “I am hurting really bad.”

In the footage one of the officers is heard saying to another: “That’s good police work, baby.”

Ms Bottoms is suing three officers including the sheriff of Rowan County, North Carolina and the city of Salisbury, accusing them of violating her Fourth Amendment rights during a traffic stop.

The Charlotte Observer reported that Ms Bottom’s injuries kept her out of work for eight months. She said that the incident terrified her.

She has pleaded guilty to failing to stop at the blue lights. The two other charges against her — speeding and resisting arrest — were dismissed.

She told the Charlotte Observer: “I was shaking in fear. 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.”

The bodycam footage also shows Officer Barkalow using several derogatory terms to refer to Ms Bottom during the encounter.

Ms Bottom filed her lawsuit just a day after Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd.

Scott Holmes, one of the attorneys representing Ms Bottom said the case “shows the importance of civil rights non-profit organisations and law school clinics devoted to policing the police.”

The officers, Ms Bottom said, “need to be held accountable for what they did to me so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”