Officers used unnecessary force on a woman during a traffic stop in North Carolina, according to a federal complaint brought by Georgia librarian Stephanie Bottom, age 66 at the time. Bottom said they dragged her by the hair from her car, tearing her rotator cuff, reported the New York Post.

The lawsuit was brought in federal court in North Carolina’s Middle District on Wednesday, April 21.

Bottom argued in her lawsuit that when she was stopped in May 2019, she posed no threat to officers from the Salisbury Police Department and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

Police arrested her on Interstate 85 for driving 80 mph in a 70 mph zone and failing to obey blue lights. Bottom said she was going to a funeral and posed no danger to the officers.

According to The Charlotte Observer, she was driving while listening to loud music and did not know police were attempting to pull her over.

Officers approached her with guns drawn after stopping her vehicle, she said.

Bottom did not comply right away because she was afraid of the police and did not want to pull off to the side of the interstate.

According to the lawsuit, Bottom was allegedly seized by her arm and hair by two officers, who then threw her out of the car and onto the ground.

Officers twisted Bottom’s arm behind her back until she was on the ground, causing her “shoulder to ‘pop,’ tearing her rotator cuff and causing severe injury.” 

She was seen weeping after being handcuffed on bodycam footage obtained by the Observer.
She asked the police, “What have I done wrong?”

She tried to explain that a “previous injury prevented her from putting her hands behind her back,” but police dismissed her, the filing said.

Officers then requested medical help to treat Bottom’s injuries and followed her after she was admitted to the hospital.

When Bottom appeared in court, she pleaded guilty to failure to obey blue lights, and the other charges were dropped, according to the filing.

Former Salisbury Police Department officer Devin Barkalow, one of the officers identified in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the complaint, directing a reporter to the department.

Linda McElroy, a spokeswoman for the City of Salisbury, said that Barkalow was hired by the department in 2015 and left the agency in Feb. 2020 to take a job with federal law enforcement.

City officials will not comment on ongoing litigation, McElroy said. But in an email to the Charlotte Observer, she said, “the Salisbury Police always strives for positive interactions with our residents and visitors, including in cases where we may suspect criminal activity. “