COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – A white police deputy was fired Wednesday after video showed him flipping a black teen backward out of her desk and tossing her across a classroom, with the sheriff saying the officer did not follow proper procedures and training.
Deputy Ben Fields was told of his firing late Wednesday morning, Sheriff Leon Lott said. Fields had been a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School.
The student was being disruptive and refused to leave the classroom despite being told by a teacher and administrator to do so, Lott said, and that’s when Fields was brought in Monday to remove her from the class. She again refused, and Fields told her she was under arrest, Lott said.
She continued to refuse, and at that point the video shows the deputy flipping the teen backward and then throwing her across the room. At that point, Lott said, Fields did not use proper procedure.
Lott said he would not release Fields’ personnel file, saying only that some complaints have been filed in the past against him, none of which came from the school district.
Court records show at least three complaints, though Fields prevailed in two of those cases.
Trial is set for January in the case of an expelled student who claims Fields targeted blacks and falsely accused him of being a gang member in 2013. In another case, a federal jury sided with Fields after a black couple accused him of excessive force and battery during a noise complaint arrest in 2005. A third lawsuit, dismissed in 2009, involved a woman who accused him of battery and violating her rights during a 2006 arrest.
Calls for Fields to be fired began mounting almost immediately after the video surfaced, and the FBI began a civil rights investigation at Lott’s request. The confrontation was captured on cellphones by students, one of whom said it all started when the girl pulled out her cellphone and refused her math teacher’s attempt to take it away during class.
“She now has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries. She has a Band-Aid on her forehead where she suffered rug burn on her forehead,” Columbia attorney Todd Rutherford, who is representing the teen, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday.
Lott had said Tuesday that the girl was uninjured in the confrontation but “may have had a rug burn.”
The sheriff suspended Fields without pay Monday. Lott, who rushed home from an out of town conference when the news broke, said that a teacher and vice principal in the classroom at the time felt the officer acted appropriately.
Email, phone and text messages for Fields have not been returned.
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