Sheriff: Spring Valley High officer fired for throwing student

By Amy R. Connolly   |   Oct. 28, 2015 at 6:35 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- A South Carolina school resource officer accused of slamming a high school student to the ground after she refused to leave her seat was fired Wednesday.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said the maneuvers used by Deputy Ben Fields on an unnamed student at Spring Valley High School were not sanctioned by the department. Lott said the department conducted "swift action" in the internal investigations following the incident that unfolded Monday.

"The maneuver that he [Fields] used was not based on the training and was not acceptable," Lott said.

Earlier in the investigation, Lott said the student "bears some responsibility" in the incident after she hit the officer at the start of their interaction. Lott said one video of Fields interacting with the student at Spring Valley High School shows the 18-year-old senior resisting.

He said if the student had not disrupted the math class, the deputy would not have been brought into the classroom and the incident would not have started.

"When the officer puts his hands on her initially, she reaches up and she pops the officer with her fist," he said.

School administrators said the incident began when the student refused to give up her cell phone to the teacher and was being disruptive. Fields ordered her out of her seat and when she refused, he wrapped an arm around her neck and pulled her backwards over her desk. She was dragged to the front of the classroom, pinned to the ground and handcuffed. Several students captured the incident on video.

In his incident report, Fields said he used "muscling techniques" to move the student from her chair. He said she resisted, pulled away and hit him in the chest with a fist. Fields has been suspended with pay and asked not to return to any school campuses in the Richland School District Two.

Lott said school administrators and the student's teacher "felt the deputy acted appropriately." But many in the community said Fields' actions were racially motivated. The student is black, while Fields is white. The FBI and Department of Justice opened a civil rights inquiry.

A second student, Niya Kenny, was arrested for "contributing to the chaos." Kenny told NBC she saw the officer put his arm around the student. That's when the student threw a punch.

"I don't even think her fist made contact with him -- she tried to," Kenny said.

Kenny said Fields is known in the school for being physical.

"We already know his reputation, and I felt something bad was going to go down," Kenny said. "He's known as Officer Slam."

Lott said Fields is not a racist because he's dating a black woman.

"She was the one resisting arrest and it wasn't racial," Lott said.

Last year, a former Spring Valley student filed a lawsuit accusing Fields of targeting black students. The school of 2,010 students is 52 percent black.

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