Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina was the location of the violent incident between Richland County Senior Deputy Ben Fields and a 16-year-old student this week — and now Fields has been fired.
Craig Melvin and Erik Ortiz of NBC News write that after the sheriff’s department looked at the cellphone video taken by a student in the classroom where the altercation took place, along with examining interviews with witnesses, they concluded that Fields’ aggressive maneuvers were unacceptable.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said he was upset by the fact that Fields picked up the student and “threw her across the room.” Lott added that what he did was wrong.
After the incident occurred, Fields, 34, was suspended without pay. The FBI, state law enforcement, and the Justice Department have begun independent investigations into the savage attack. Even though Fields has no other marks against him during his seven years working at the school, his behavior during this event warranted termination, according to Lott.
The investigation’s results state that deputies are trained to use “tactical communication to try to talk them into compliance.” If not successful, “pain compliance techniques” may be used. No pushing or throwing is permissible unless the suspect is trying to harm a deputy.
The student, explained Lott, did exhibit unruly behavior that led to the deputy’s actions, but did not warrant the deputy’s excessive force. Still, in Lott’s opinion, the girl needs to be held responsible for her actions, too.
Lott said the student suffered only rug burns, but her attorney said on ABC’s Good Morning America she had an arm cast and had injuries to her neck and back.
At 11:00 a.m. on the morning of the incident, the student was unruly in her algebra class and was using her cellphone. Her teacher asked her to leave the room, and the student refused. At this point, Lott said, an administrator came into the classroom.
Fields entered the room, stood in front of the student, and told her to leave the room. When she did not leave, Fields slammed her to the ground while she was still in her desk and dragged her, while still in the desk, across the floor.
Another video being taken by a different student showed the girl swinging at Field’s head after he touches her, Lott said. Eighteen-year-old Niya Kenny became involved in the incident, and said she saw Field put his arm around her fellow student’s neck, and that is when her classmate fought back. She continued by saying Fields’ nickname is “Officer Slam.” Kenny was also arrested after the incident.
Fields’ attorney, Scott Hayes, says the deputy’s actions were “justified and lawful”, report CNN’s Holly Yan and Mariano Castillo. He notes that his client performed his job duties.
Richland School District Two Superintendent Debbie Hamm said the district will continue to work closely with the Sheriff’s Department and the federal and state agencies to untangle what exactly happened in the classroom that day.
The BBC reports that Fields received a “Culture of Excellence” award at the elementary school to which he is also assigned. But the Associated Press found that in January, Fields will be in court for allegedly targeting blacks and for falsely accusing an expelled student of being a gang member.
In 2005, Fields won a case in which a black couple accused him of using excessive force during an arrest for a noise complaint. And the court dismissed a lawsuit in 2009 which involved an accusation of battery and violating a woman’s rights during an arrest which took place in 2006.
Polly Mosendz of Newsweek says that Todd Rutherford, the girl’s attorney, shared during an interview on the Joe Madison Show that the girl’s biological mother and grandmother are both alive, but the student is currently in foster care. Her relationship with her father is not clear.