150,000 Sign Petition Calling for Prosecution of Officer Fired for Flipping Student

ben fields
Richland County Sheriff's Department Senior Deputy Ben Fields is pictured with Karen Beaman, principal of the Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina, after receiving a Culture of Excellence Award on November 12, 2014. Richland County Sheriff's Department/Reuters

A petition calling for the prosecution of a South Carolina police officer who was fired in late October after a video showing him flipping a high school student out of her desk went viral has attracted 150,000 signatures.

Organized by the activist organizations Color of Change, the Alliance for Educational Justice and the Justice for the Spring Valley Two Coalition, the petition was delivered to Solicitor Dan Johnson at the Richland County Justice Center in Columbia, South Carolina on Thursday afternoon.

Because of the ongoing federal investigations into Fields's actions, Johnson said the solicitor's office was unable to bring a case at this time.

In the video, the officer, Ben Fields, is seen flipping and dragging a student after she refused to leave class. Administrators and teachers had asked the student to leave the classroom, and Fields was brought in after she refused.

At Spring Valley high school pic.twitter.com/ScWrJz6x6J

— ✨Yessenia✨ (@Motive__Money) October 26, 2015

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott fired Fields from his post as senior deputy because Fields "did not follow proper training, proper procedure when he threw the student across the room."

The student in the desk, who was not identified, was charged with disturbing the peace before being released to her guardian. A second student, 18-year-old Niya M. Kenny, was also charged with disturbing the peace.

Related: Who is Ben Fields, the Police Officer Filmed Flipping a Student?

The activists who delivered the petition are calling for charges against both students to be dropped. "The entire nation reacted with disgust and disbelief at the video of Officer Ben Fields violently assaulting [the student in the desk] and arresting Niya for videotaping the incident," Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, said in a statement. "Even though Fields was fired for his actions, the arrests he made are still being treated as though they are legitimate. These two young women have suffered enough without the justice system dragging out the process of eliminating these ridiculous charges."

The video gained the attention of the Black Lives Matter movement, local authorities and the federal government. The FBI and Justice Department announced they would investigate the incident.

Johnson offered this statement on Thursday, presumably after receiving the petition, explaining the charges the two students face:

"Until we receive the FBI's findings at the conclusion of their investigation, the incident involving Ben Fields is not a pending case within the Richland County Solicitor's Office. Please be advised that the cases involving the students and the FBI investigation involving Ben Fields are inextricably linked. Therefore, while one is under investigation, the others cannot be resolved and will not go forward. No prosecution decisions in these cases will be made, nor can they be fairly made, until all investigations are complete, and all evidence is collected and assessed according to the relevant laws."

In October, Fields's attorney defended the former police officer's actions in a statement to CNN. "We believe that Mr. Fields' actions were justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident," attorney Scott Hayes said.