City of Salisbury responds to lawsuit involving 66-year-old who says she was violently pulled from SUV

Lawsuit alleges woman badly hurt by officers in Salisbury

SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - The City of Salisbury has responded to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in which a then 66-year-old woman says she was treated violently during a traffic stop on I-85 in May, 2019.

Stephanie Bottom says a Rowan County deputy and two Salisbury police officers violently pulled her from her SUV and caused damage to her arm.

The City of Salisbury provided a statement about the case, saying “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 admits that she was speeding in her SUV while traveling to a funeral. She says she did not initially realize that officers were trying to stop her because she was playing loud music in the car. She says once she did realize officers wanted her to stop, she tried to find a safe place to pull over. After some time, officers deployed spike strips to stop Bottom’s SUV.

Pictures that were included as exhibits in the lawsuit appear to show parts of the encounter, including a deputy approaching Bottom’s SUV with a gun drawn, the hand of an officer grabbing Bottom’s arm and then a handful of her hair, and then putting Bottom on the ground.

In the 2019 Annual Report, the Salisbury Police Department noted that “with a focus on training and policy accountability, SPD has been successful bringing down the number of force applications in recent years.” There were 48 documented cases of SPD officers using force in 2019, down from a high of 90 cases in 2016.

Gemale Black, President of the Salisbury-Rowan chapter of the NAACP is demanding more steps be taken by the Salisbury Police and Rowan Sheriff in handling situations like this one.

“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,” Black wrote in a news release.

“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.”

“Based on the released video and media reports, we are issuing demands for Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and Salisbury Police Department:

Release body camera and dash camera footage: Call for the agencies to release the officers’ body camera video and the dash camera video in the traffic stop incident.

Transparent investigation: An investigation into the situation to the fullest extent including the conduct of officers involved. Following the investigation, results and status of officers involved should be made public for transparency and public opinions of police.

Review current policies: Salisbury-Rowan NAACP will receive a copy of all law enforcement policies and procedures of each agency.

Create new policy: Establish a zero-tolerance policy to include by not limited to an approach in penalizing and/or prosecuting police officers who engage in unethical acts when interacting with unarmed, non-violent, and non-resisting individuals.

Update mission statement: Rowan County Sheriff’s Office to update its mission statement to include inclusive language of professional law enforcement services being provided to visitors. Currently it states only “to provide professional law enforcement to the citizens of Rowan County, North Carolina.”

“Our community deserves to see policies in place that plainly states the outcome when officers use excessive force. We cannot move forward building a community of trust and confidence, if law enforcement agencies are not holding officers accountable for their actions and being transparent.”

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