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‘I was scared for my life’: 68-year-old black woman Stephanie Bottom describes traffic stop that prompted trial for excessive force

Editor’s Note: The bodycam video featured in this story is disturbing.

In a federal lawsuit, a 68-year-old black librarian accuses North Carolina law enforcement officials of using excessive force against her during a traffic stop. Body camera images shows officers grabbing Stephanie Bottom by her hair and throwing her to the ground after being arrested for speeding in May 2019.

Bottom was driving from Georgia to North Carolina for her great aunt’s funeral when she was arrested. His offenses, according to police: driving 10 miles over the speed limit and not stopping for officers in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Bottom said she was listening to loud music and didn’t realize the police were behind her trying to stop her. In the video, the then 66-year-old grandmother of five is seen face down after being dragged out of her car.

“I was shocked,” she told “CBS This Morning” senior national correspondent David Begnaud. “I was scared. I was afraid for my life. I didn’t know if they were going to shoot me.

‘I was scared for my life’: 68-year-old black woman Stephanie Bottom describes traffic stop that prompted trial for excessive force
Stephanie Bottom


In body camera footage posted by Bottom’s attorney, an officer tells Bottom that three police cars were following her for about 10 miles.

They used strips of spikes to flatten his tires and stop him.

“You are putting a lot of people in danger tonight, ma’am,” said an officer in the video.

“How? ‘Or’ What?” Bottom asks. “… I didn’t know you were chasing me. I was listening to my music.”

She said to Begnaud when she saw the police cars behind her, “I was like, why are these cops, you know, behind me?”

It happened on Interstate 85 in Salisbury.

“A pretty exciting chase here,” one of the officers said in the video. “I’m on the edge of my seat, baby.”

As the police continued, the officer also said, “What’s wrong with this late?

Bottom’s attorney, Ian Mance, said Bottom was not a threat and law enforcement had an idea.

“They also stop by her side and think to themselves that she is an older black woman,” Mance said. “She’s alone. They later wrote an incident report in which they said that when they stopped next to her, she raised her hand in a way that suggested she was not. not sure what was going on. “

Bottom’s trial alleges that after the incident, officers congratulated each other.

“It’s a good police job, babe,” said one officer in body camera footage.

They even brag about having caught a “handful of dreads”.

“At that point, she earned it,” said one officer.

Bottom is suing the three officers who removed her from her vehicle, the Rowan County Sheriff in North Carolina, and the city of Salisbury for using excessive force. She said they tore her rotator cuff.

“My shoulder, I have a torn ligament in my shoulder,” Bottom says in bodycam footage.

Begnaud asked Bottom what she wanted to tell the officers.

“You hurt me,” Bottom said. “You can’t hurt vulnerable people. You can’t force and brutalize innocent people. If I was guilty of not stopping right away or not speeding, it didn’t require what you did to me, and you must be held responsible. “

Bottom pleaded guilty to ignoring the blue lights. She was also initially charged with speeding and resisting an officer. These charges were dismissed.

CBS News contacted the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and the three officers who responded and had no response.

Salisbury Police Department declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the City of Salisbury told CBS News she could not comment on the pending litigation.

He has previously issued a statement saying, “The Salisbury Police Department strives to foster positive interactions with our residents and visitors.”


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