On Monday, Oct. 26, a video surfaced on the Internet of a South Carolina school resource officer throwing a female student across a classroom.
The incident occurred at the Spring Valley High School in Columbia, witnesses said, when the unnamed African-American student refused to put away her cell phone and then refused to leave the classroom after being asked by the teacher and school principal.
The officer was then summoned and asked her to leave again. She refused, and he told her she was under arrest.
The video then shows the officer violently knocking the student down, flipping her desk over her, and pulling her across the floor.
The incident was filmed by a fellow student and was uploaded to YouTube. The video made its way around social media, prompting the hashtag #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott suspended Deputy Ben Fields after the incident, and fired him Wednesday.
Lott said that Senior Deputy Ben Fields “did not follow proper procedure”.
He “should not have thrown a student – he could have done a lot of things he was trained to do, he was not trained to throw a student,” Sheriff Lott said.
Lott said he had received expressions of support for the officer from some parents and school officials. Officer Fields had received a “Culture of Excellence” award last year by an elementary school where he was also assigned.
But Sheriff Lott said the officer had “lost control” and had not handled this incident correctly.
“That is not proper technique and should not be used in law enforcement. And based on that, that is a violation of our policy and approximately 20 minutes ago Officer Ben Fields was terminated from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.”
He said complaints had been made about Officer Fields during his time at the school – some had been upheld and some had not.
Legal action has been taken three times against the officer, according to Associated Press:
- 2013: An expelled student claims Fields targeted black students and falsely accused him of being a gang member in 2013. Fields will go to trial in January.
- 2009: A woman filed a lawsuit, which was later dismissed, accusing Fields of battery and violating her rights during a 2006 arrest.
- 2005: A federal jury found in Officer Fields’ favor after a black couple accused him of excessive force and battery during a noise complaint arrest.
The deputy has not been criminally charged but the Federal Bureau of Investigation and justice department have opened a civil rights investigation into the arrest.
Fellow students at the school have tweeted claims that they have seen him behaving in a similar manner in the past, but this was the first time such an incident was caught on camera.
Sheriff Lott has said the girl was unhurt in the incident aside from a carpet burn.
However, the girl’s attorney, Todd Rutherford, told ABC’s Good Morning America that she “has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries” as well as a plaster on her forehead because of the carpet burn.
Sheriff Lott said he would “not describe the officer as remorseful, but he was sorry that the whole thing occurred”.