At this point, I’m convinced that cops can’t wait for an excuse to go berserk on Black people. And we’ve seen report after report after report that indicates that among cops’ favorite excuses to go way overboard in their uses of force is anything they perceive as a car chase.
We saw this when Black Army Lieutenant Caron Nazario was pepper-sprayed and struck in the legs by a Virginia officer during a traffic stop all because he waited until he got to a safe, well-lit area before pulling over and demanded to know why he was being ordered out of his vehicle. We saw it when a Black teen was brutally beaten in California by officers who said the teen led them on a high-speed chase while the teen said he didn’t even realize the cops were trying to pull him over. Interestingly enough, that same energy was absent when a white senator from Kansas led an officer on a chase while driving drunk on the wrong side of a highway, called the officer “donut boy” and basically challenged him to a fight.
But being Black in America means having cops treat you like you’re less than human. And just in case you think that being, say, an older Black woman might shield you from police violence, look no further than the stories of 50-year-old Anjanette Young and 74-year-old Ruby Jones to dispel that notion.
This brings us to 68-year-old Stephanie Bottom who filed a lawsuit Wednesday against three Salisbury, N.C., police officers who, in 2019, held her at gunpoint, grabbed her by her hair and allegedly dislocated her shoulder after pulling her over for driving ten miles over the speeding limit. Once again, it’s a case where police believed they were led on a chase while Bottom said she didn’t realize they were trying to pull her over and once she did realize it, she waited until she felt safe to stop—at which point the cops proved she still wasn’t safe.
Police body-cam footage published by the Washington Post shows that within seconds of officers opening Bottom’s car door and seeing a visibly afraid elderly woman, an officer grabbed her by her arm and hair to pull her out of the car. Officers can also be seen handling her like she was a six-foot-plus grown man as she screamed in pain and terror. The footage also caught officers congratulating each other on what they had done with one officer saying, “That’s good police work, baby,” and another bragging that he grabbed a “handful of dreads,” and said, “at that point, she deserved it.”
According to the Post, the officers named in the suit have been identified as Devin Barkalow, Adam Bouk and Rowan County Sheriff’s deputy Mark Benfield.
From the Post:
Bottom, an Atlanta librarian and grandmother of five, was driving to North Carolina for a relative’s funeral when police stopped her vehicle after it was going 10 mph over the speed limit, according to a federal lawsuit she filed Wednesday. Bottom, who did not immediately realize police wanted her to stop, was looking for a safe place to pull over when police used spike strips to stop her SUV.
Before Bottom, 68, could get an answer as to why the officers had their guns pointed at her head, police grabbed the librarian by her arm and hair and threw her from her car to the ground, body-camera footage shows.
Police then allegedly tore Bottom’s rotator cuff as they detained her, shrieking, facedown on the pavement of the interstate. After she cried for police to get her medical attention — “I am hurting really bad” — one of the officers on the scene congratulated his law enforcement colleagues on a job well done, according to the lawsuit.
Bottom said she was driving from her home in Fulton County, Ga., to Raleigh for her great aunt’s funeral on May 30, 2019, when she noticed a police car trying to pull her over for going 80 mph in a 70 mph zone. It was around 8 p.m., and Bottom, who said that initially she didn’t notice the lights because she was listening to the music of Santana and Prince at a loud volume, was trying to find a safe area to pull over. Her fear of police also played a role in finding a safe spot to stop on Interstate 85, Bottom told The Post.
“There’s been a lot of police brutality, and I was terrified,” she said.
According to the suit, none of the officers were ever disciplined, which leads us to a question I find myself asking constantly: Where are the good cops?
Scott Holmes, an attorney representing Bottom and a professor at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law Civil Litigation Clinic, told the Post that “we don’t have any information that they were sanctioned in any way.”
Bottom—who pleaded guilty to failing to heed blue lights while the charges for speeding and resisting arrest were dismissed in court—said that after nearly two years, she still has trouble lifting her left arm after her rotator cuff was torn.
“I want these officers to be accountable so that they don’t do this to anyone else,” she told the Post. “I want for them to understand this was not a joke, not a game, not something for them to laugh or brag about.”