Update: On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced the opening of a civil rights inquiry into the incident.
South Carolina – Spring Valley High School officials and Richland County sheriff’s deputies are investigating after a video supposedly taken at the high school shows an abusive confrontation between the school’s resource officer and a female student who was reportedly being verbally disruptive.
In a statement to local media, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said that Officer Ben Fields, who is Spring Valley’s official School Resource Officer (SRO), was responding to a student who was refusing to leave class.
“The student was told she was under arrest for disturbing school and given instructions which she again refused,” Lott told Live5News.com. “The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested by the SRO.”
Parents of students at Spring Valley High School are already reacting to the video. A group calling themselves the Richland Two Black Parents Association called the video “egregious” and “unacceptable.”
“Parents are heartbroken as this is just another example of the intolerance that continues to be of issue in Richland School District Two particularly with families and children of color,” the statement said. “As we have stated in the past, we stand ready to work in collaboration to address these horrible acts of violence and inequities among our children”.
Officer Ben Fields has been placed on administrative duty while the sheriff’s office investigates.
The girl in the video was arrested, the sheriff’s office said. Another student was also arrested, according to WLTX. The second female student to be arrested after standing up and voicing her complaints at Officer Ben Field’s actions was charged with “disturbing schools” and released on $1000 bond. She gave an interview about the ordeal to local news.
Richmond School Superintendant Dr. Debbie Hamm released the following statement.
In the brief video, filmed by a student, Fields tells the girl, “either you’re coming with me or I’ll make you.” When she does not comply, the officer grabs her arm before putting his arm around her neck, tossing the student out of the desk and onto the ground. Fields can then be seen dragging the girl across the room, pinning her down with her arms behind her back.
A second, longer video shows the few moments before and after the violent takedown, revealing more of the demeanor of the girl and her classmates.
A third video shows the incident from another angle.
— Chad Mills (@ChadMillsWIS) October 26, 2015
A fourth video
A Spring Valley student named Aaron Johnson who says he was in the class sent Gawkerthis account via Twitter direct message:
The girl was asked by the teacher Mr. Long to leave the classroom and go to the discipline office, she ignored him, then an administrator came in and asked her if he needed to get the resource officer. She ignored him and then the officer came in. He asked if she was gonna go or if he had to make her go. Then he grabbed her and pulled her out of her desk and she fell on the ground with the desk still on her. He then threw her across the room and then got on top of her. Another student tried to stand up for her, which also led to her arrest.
Student who was in the class tweeted about the incident.
— Aaron Johnson (@Aaron___J) October 26, 2015
The girl in the video was new to our class, and she was quiet like she never talked to anyone — Aaron Johnson (@Aaron___J) October 26, 2015
What we know so far about Officer Ben Fields:
Heavy.com reports – Deputy Ben Fields is facing a lawsuit in federal court accusing him of violating the civil rights of a student at Spring Valley High School. The student, Ashton James Reese, was expelled from the high school for “unlawful assembly of gang activity and assault and battery,” in 2013. He was accused of participating in a “gang related” fight in a Walmart parking lot near the school. A jury trial is scheduled to begin on January 27, 2016.
Fields was also sued in federal court in 2007 from his time as a patrol deputy.
In that lawsuit, Fields was accused of violating the civil rights of a man and woman at an apartment complex in Columbia. The plaintiff, Carlos Martin, says was driving his car near his home and saw a police officer driving his cruiser in the parking lot. He said he nodded to the officer “as a friendly gesture and greeting.”
Martin said shortly after he parked his car and was walking to his apartment. He says he then heard the officer, later identified as Fields, running toward him calling, “Hey you.” Fields asked for Martin’s license and registration and asked if he was the cause of excessive noise that a resident had complained about. Martin told Fields he wasn’t the source and had just got home from work.
“Deputy Fields became agitated when Plaintiff Carlos Martin, with absolutely no disrespect, addressed Deputy Fields using the colloquial term ‘dude,’” the lawsuit states. “Despite (Martin’s) attempts to assure the Deputy that he intended no disrespect, Deputy Fields nevertheless became increasingly angry. Deputy Fields’ unprovoked anger escalated to the point that he grabbed (Martin), slammed him to the ground, cuffed him, began kicking him, and chemically maced him until his clothing was drenched and the contents of the can of mace was depleted.”
According to the lawsuit, Fields later seized a cell phone from Martin’s wife, Tashiana Anita Martin, who recorded the incident on video and never returned to her. He also arrested her. The charges against both were later dropped when the prosecution failed to show up for court.
You can read the complaints HERE