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Alabama woman who says police assaulted her after calling 911 files federal lawsuit

Twyla Stallworth, a Black woman from Andalusia, Al., filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Andalusia, its police department and Ofc. Grant Barton, the police officer involved in the incident.
Twyla Stallworth
Twyla Stallworth, a Black woman from Andalusia, Al., filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Andalusia, its police department and Ofc. Grant Barton, the police officer involved in the incident.

An Alabama woman who was shown on video being arrested at her home by police in February because she refused to show her identification says she is demanding justice in court.

Twyla Stallworth, a 40-year-old woman from Andalusia, Ala., filed a federal lawsuit this week against the city, its police department and Grant Barton, the police officer involved in the incident. Stallworth says the incident was "racially motivated," as she is Black, and Barton is white.

"Enough is enough for Black people and the Black community," Stallworth told reporters at a news conference Thursday announcing the lawsuit.

"Stand boldly for your rights and always cover yourself. Have a camera and make sure you're recording because without evidence, you lose every time," she added, referencing the cellphone video of her arrest captured by her 18-year-old son, Jermari Marshall.

The lawsuit argues that Stallworth was unlawfully arrested and illegally detained. Alabamastate law allows an officer — who reasonably suspects a crime is being committed — to ask for people's names and addresses and explanations of their actions. However, it does not go into detail about showing identification, such as driver's licenses or passports.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of both Stallworth and Marshall. Stallworth is asking for an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.

In the 23-page lawsuit obtained by NPR, Stallworth says that on Feb. 23, she was assaulted, strip-searched and jailed for 15 hours after she called Andalusia police to call in a noise complaint coming from her neighbor's residence.

After getting no response from police, Stallworth purposely set off her car alarm in an effort to get the neighbor's attention and convince him to turn down the music, said Harry Daniels, an Atlanta-based attorney representing Stallworth.

The neighbor then called the police to report Stallworth's car alarm, the lawsuit says, and Grant Barton was the officer who responded to the neighbor's complaint.

According to Stallworth, Barton threatened to cite her for the car alarm. He did not address her original noise complaint against her neighbor.

In cellphone video captured by Marshall and released by Daniels, Barton is shown standing at Stallworth's doorstep asking for her identification.

"Ma'am, I'm not arguing with you. Provide ID or go to jail," Barton says in the video.

Barton is shown in the video arresting Stallworth for failing to present her identification, as he tells her to put her hands behind her back and grabs her wrist. Stallworth is heard screaming and shown being thrown onto her couch and placed in handcuffs.

In the video, Barton is shown pushing Marshall, who is recording, then entering the family's home and shoving Stallworth.

"Why are you trying to rough up a female, dude? You need Jesus... This ain't nothing but the devil," Stallworth says in the video.

Stallworth was arrested and later charged with obstruction, resisting arrest and eluding, the suit says. Once taken to the police station, she was subjected to a strip search and held for 15 hours before being required to post a nearly $3,000 bond in order to be released.

The charges against Stallworth have since been dropped.

The city of Andalusia did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment, and Andalusia Police Chief Paul Hudson declined to comment on this story.

The mayor of Andalusia, Early Johnson, issued an apology to Stallworth last month once her charges were dropped, saying:

"On behalf of the City of Andalusia and the Andalusia Police Department, I would like to apologize to Twyla Stallworth for her arrest in February ... the arresting officer has a clean record with our department, but he made a mistake in the case on February 23. He has been disciplined."

The lawsuit did not go into detail regarding Barton's punishment.

In a statement to NPR, Daniels slammed Barton's actions during the incident, calling the incident "disturbing" and "dangerous."

"If a police officer like Barton is willing to illegally force himself into your home, assault you and your son and lock you up in a cage when you're strip searched and degraded even though you haven't broken any laws, then what wouldn't he do?" Daniels said.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.