South Carolina Sheriff Fires Deputy Ben Fields, Seen Tackling Student in Video

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

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced Wednesday that he fired Senior Deputy Ben Fields over the deputy's actions against a student at a local high school earlier this week.

In a video that quickly went viral on Monday, Fields is seen flipping and dragging a student after she refused to leave class at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. Administrators and teachers had asked the student to leave the classroom, and when she refused, Fields was brought in.

"She was very disruptive, very disrespectful. She started this whole incident with her actions," Lott said of the student. "We must not lose sight that this whole incident was started by this student.... What she did doesn't justify what our deputy did."

The student, who has not been named, was initially charged with disturbing the peace. Lott said charges have not been dropped. The video of the incident quickly gained the attention of the media, Black Lives Matter activists and the federal government.

"It is not what I expect from my deputies. As in any incident, videos are very useful to us, and we are glad the student [filmed Fields]," Lott said during the press conference. "We welcome people to video us.... Our citizens should police the police."

Because of the video, Lott said he was able to make his decision to terminate the deputy more quickly. At the end of the press conference, Lott once again praised Tony Robinson Jr. for filming the incident.

Administrators told the sheriff's department Fields was justified in arresting the student, but it was the manner in which he removed the student that was problematic, Lott explained.

"Deputy Fields did not follow proper training, proper procedure when he threw the student across the room," Lott said.

School resource officers should use physical force only in the most extreme situations or when the student is a danger to the officer, Lott explained. Officers are trained to speak with students in an effort to get them to comply. If verbal commands fail, officers can use pain compliance, such as pressure points. "When he threw her across the room...that's not acceptable. Ben Fields should not have thrown the student. He was not trained to throw the student. We've done the right thing in our actions in terminating him," Lott said.

The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI are investigating the incident to determine if any federal laws were violated.

Fields has been sued twice as a police officer, once by a student at the same school. "We're going to look at everything he's done in the past, but the main thing we're going to look at is what happened today. That's the most important thing. The stuff in the past means something, but what he did today and how he did it, that's what is going to influence me on my decision," Lott said Tuesday, referring to the video.

The student has not been identified. She reportedly has injuries to her neck and back.