Light from the sun beamed down onto Twyla Stallworth’s black sunglasses as she approached microphones on a podium in front of an Alabama federal courthouse. Tears instantly rolled down the Andalusia native’s cheeks as she thought about that day in February when she and her son could have lost their lives because of an arrogant police officer who did not know the law.

“Enough is enough,” Stallworth said at a press conference on April 25 with her 18-year-old son, Jermari Marshall, by her side.

Stallworth’s tears were bittersweet. She appreciated, and was well aware of, the significance that she walked out of jail alive and wasn’t carried out in a casket. The 40-year-old mother’s tears were also for other Black people, especially Black women, who were met by one or more police officers’ fatal bullets coming from the other side of their front doors.

Breonna Taylor, 26, was sleeping in her bed. Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was babysitting her nephew. Kathryn Johnston, 92, and Aaliyah Anders, 26, were already living in fear when police showed up at their front doors and shots were exchanged.

And being a legal gun owner, as Anders, Jefferson and Johnston were, did not keep those Black women safe in their homes. Eboni Pouncy was petrified of the idea of coming close to joining that list of names in February when Houston police officers mistook her for an armed intruder inside her friend’s home. Pouncy, 28, survived being shot five times.

Johnston’s family reached a $4.9 million settlement with the city of Atlanta in 2010. The city council in Fort Worth, Texas, approved a $3.5 million settlement for Jefferson’s nephew in November. Taylor’s family landed a $12 million settlement with the city of Louisville, Kentucky, and Louisville Metro Police Department in September 2020.

Marshall and Stallworth filed their own lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama last week against the city of Andalusia and John Gary Barton, the responding officer. They are suing for an unspecified amount for damages, alleging unlawful arrest and assault.

“I know I didn’t lose my life. I know I’m grateful that I’m able to stand here and speak to you,” Stallworth said while fighting back tears. “I’m grateful that my son is able to stand here because we could have both lost our lives. We could have both lost our lives.”

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Twyla Stallworth and her son, Jermari Marshall, are seeking unspecified amount for damages stemming from her arrest in February by Adalusia, Alabama police officer John Gary Barton. Stallworth is alleging unlawful arrest and assault.

During the 15 hours of Stallworth’s false imprisonment, her family was able to pull together $3,035 to get her out of jail. But it was too late. Stallworth said she was sexually violated when Covington County jail officials subjected her to a strip search while in custody for bogus obstruction, resisting arrest, and eluding charges.

“Every morning I wake up, I wake up a different person. A piece of me was lost,” Stallworth said. “This has to stop. Enough is enough for the people in the Black community.”

Earl Johnson, the city’s mayor, issued an apology in March to Stallworth and announced that the charges were dropped because the officer didn’t “know the law,” he said in a statement.

“We have agreed that the entire department will receive additional training on constitutional law, the laws of the State of Alabama, and the City of Andalusia’s ordinances, so that we will not have problems like this one in the future,” he said.

Johnson also added there was an investigation into the allegations of racism. “We have reviewed body cam footage of the incident, and see no evidence of racism,” he said.

“We done heard the city of Andalusia’s apology. … But there was no accountability,” Harry Daniels, an attorney for the mother and son, said at a press conference. “That is a dangerous decision. It is a dangerous decision to allow an individual to remain in law enforcement who clearly don’t know the law. When people don’t know the law, people get hurt and people get killed.”

Stallworth, a real estate agent, said that even though the incident was months ago, she is still “confused and full of anxiety.”

“Enough is enough,” Stallworth emphasized. “Stand up for your rights and stand boldly for your rights. And always cover yourself, have a camera. Make sure that you’re recording because without evidence you lose, every time.”

“Mom, please, just give him your ID, please!”

“We’re just thankful that Ms. Stallworth is here. We’re thankful that her son is here,” Daniels said. “We’re grateful that her young son Jamari stayed calm, collected and recorded. Because if it was not recorded, we would not be standing here today because the state of Alabama don’t release body cameras. It would have been her word against Barton’s word.”

For months, Stallworth had been calling the police on her neighbors, who are white, for the noise they were making. Whenever she called, she said the police either didn’t respond or did nothing to encourage her neighbors to lower their noise volume.

Twyla Stallworth said she contacted police in Andalusia, Alabama, to complain about noisy neighbors. When the neighbors later called police on her, she wound up under arrest. (Courtesy of Harry Daniels)

On Feb. 23, Stallworth had a plan to ask them to turn the noise down by setting off her car’s alarm. Instead of getting their attention, her plan backfired when the neighbors called the police on her.

This time the police, Barton, showed up. Stallworth explained to Barton about her own history of unanswered complaints regarding her neighbors, Daniels wrote in an emailed statement that detailed the events off camera. Barton threatened to arrest Stallworth for refusing to show him her identification. She refused to show it because whenever the police did show up when she called, the police didn’t ask for their neighbor’s identification, her attorney said.

The volume of their verbal back and forth started to escalate on the front porch. Inside, Marshall picked up his cellphone, hit the icon for its camera and started recording. The video begins as Marshall opens the front door and panned the phone’s camera to frame Barton, who was in the middle of threatening to arrest Stallworth.

His distressed mother couldn’t believe that the officer’s demands for her identification turned into a possibility of a red flag on her record. Stallworth said she was going to put her shoes on when Barton told her she was under arrest and reached for her arm. The camera briefly shook as Barton forcefully pushed his way into their home to arrest Stallworth, according to the lawsuit and the roughly five-minute video.

“Mom please, mom please. Everybody please calm down,” the 18-year-old pleaded. “Mom, please, just give him your ID, please!”

In between cries, Marshall continues to hold his phone steady. His voice cracks as his mother begs him to call his dad. Instead of hitting the stop button, Marshall kept recording. As the officer pushed Stallworth on her back and onto their living room couch, one blue handcuff was placed around her left wrist. Marshall assured his mom that “it’s OK” — he was still recording, collecting evidence.

At that point, it seemed as if Stallworth’s survival mode turned down a notch. She got up from the couch on her own, as Barton didn’t lose his grip to her cuffed hand.


Read More: What to Do If You Witness Possible Police Misconduct


“Why do you wanna rough up a female, dude?” Stallworth asked Barton as she put her other hand behind her back without incident.

As Stallworth is being escorted outside her home and to a marked police car, the mother and son peppered Barton with an impromptu quiz about Alabama’s law.

“Hey dude,” Marshall said. “Before you take her away, why are you taking her away?”

“Right now, she’s under arrest for failure to identify,” the officer replied.

The camera rolled as the young man asked the officer to define the legal statute associated with this alleged crime. As the officer used his phone to search on Google for the law, Stallworth is heard in the background of the video correcting the officer’s interpretation — as is Marshall.

Jermari Marshall, 18, recorded his mother, Twyla Stallworth, as she was being arrested. (Courtesy of Harry Daniels)

“The simple fact is that my client’s 18-year-old son was calmer, more composed, and knew more about the law and police procedure than this trained, sworn and armed police officer,” Daniels said, adding, “That’s not just disturbing. It’s dangerous.”

Johnson, the city’s mayor, also agreed. In that same announcement, Johnson said Barton would be disciplined but didn’t elaborate how and the entire department would receive training. Marshall didn’t receive an apology.

And they were right.

Alabama law gives a police officer the right to ask for a name, address, and what someone they suspect committed or is in the process of committing a crime is doing — or some form of the latter question. But the law doesn’t say that the person has to show a photographic identification.

Historically, it has been through civil litigation or a disciplinary hearing that a survivor or a family of a victim of police brutality would learn if a law enforcement officer broke the law or a police procedure. Criminal charges are rarely filed against law enforcement.

In March, Ruby Johnson, 77, was awarded an extra $4 million in a lawsuit settlement that followed a botched raid inside her Denver home in January 2022. The search warrant was executed without probable cause and based on the use of an iPhone app tracking system.

Eventually, Marshall called his father while still recording the last minute of the encounter.

After five minutes and 14 seconds of recording, the police car drives away with Stallworth in tow. The camera lens drops to the street as Marshall lets out a deep sigh of uncertainty before pressing stop.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the city of Andalusia,” Marshall said at the press conference. “Incredibly disappointed. Not surprised, but disappointed.”

Christina Carrega is a criminal justice reporter at Worldacad. Twitter @ChrisCarrega