During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott confirmed that Deputy Ben Fields – the officer who’s come under fire for violently taking down a teenage girl inside Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina – has lost his job.
Fields has been stripped of his badge following an investigation into Monday’s incident inside a classroom at the school, Lott said. Video footage of the altercation surfaced just hours later and quickly spread across social media.
The viral footage shows the officer approach the teen sitting at her desk. He places his left arm on her left arm and wraps his right arm around her neck. In one motion, he flips the desk over, spins it around, and pulls the student out of it before restraining her.
“Deputy Fields did not follow proper training when he threw the student across the room,” Lott told reporters, acknowledging his officer used excessive force. “Throwing someone across the room is not something that we teach.”
Lott said on Wednesday the unnamed female student that Fields body-slammed was “disruptive” but noted the deputy “lost control” and later expressed regret that “this whole thing occurred. He tried to do his job, it happened very quickly…but his actions were something that, if he had to do it over again, he’d probably do things different.”
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If criminal counts are eventually filed against Fields, Lott said those charges will be brought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is conducting its own independent investigation into what happened at the school.
During the press conference, Lott repeatedly refused to back away from blaming the student for her role in exacerbating Monday’s incident. “Her actions were disruptive and she wasn’t following her teacher’s instructions,” he said.
The student, Lott alleged, was using her phone and refused the teacher’s instructions to leave the class and go to the principal’s office. She was “also verbally disruptive,” he said.
Lott also clarified comments about the student’s injuries that he’d made during a separate press conference Tuesday. He confirmed that the student was hurt, but couldn’t confirm claims from her attorney she sustained arm, neck and back injuries.
Lott told reporters Tuesday that another video of the incident surfaced, showing the female student “reach up and pop” the officer in the face with her fist. In it, the student can be seen striking the officer – but only after he’s already engaged her.
Court records indicate two lawsuits have been filed against Fields since 2007. The most recent was filed two years ago and will be handled during a jury trial set to commence on Jan. 27.
In that case, a former Spring Valley student alleges his civil rights were violated when he was expelled from school for participating in an off-campus scuffle. His removal from the school followed an investigation by Fields, court documents indicate. (Fields has not commented on this lawsuit.)
A 2007 suit against Fields, Lott, and another officer alleged the three men violated a couple s civil rights during an arrest. That suit was eventually dismissed.