Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has fired Senior Deputy Ben Fields, and said he overreacted when he was attempting to discipline a recalcitrant student at Spring Valley High School.
Video footage of the classroom tussle went viral on Monday, prompting an FBI investigation and calls for Fields to be fired.
Fields “did not follow proper procedure,” Lott told a press conference Wednesday. “The maneuver that he used was not based on the training or acceptable … Deputy Ben Fields did wrong this past Monday, so we’re taking that responsibility for that,” he said.
Fields was allowed to touch the student and inform her she was under arrest, but he overstepped his bounds when he threw her to the ground, said Lott.
Fields was asked to remove the student by the teacher, after a school administrator failed to convince the student to behave properly.
Charges of racism have been leveled at Fields, who is white; the student is black. But the teacher is also black, and Lott noted that both the administrator and the teacher supported Fields’ action.
Lott acknowledged that the student behaved badly, and ignored her teacher’s requests to put away her phone. “She was not allowing the teacher to teach, she was not allowing the students to learn. She was very disruptive, very disrespectful,” Lott said.
Lott concluded that firing Fields “wasn’t a hard decision,” while lauding students who filmed the incident. “What’s caused me to be upset, when I first saw that video, and continues to upset me, is that he picked the student up and threw the student across the room.”
On Monday, FBI director James Comey joined the growing number of law-enforcement officials who says crime is rising because cops are increasingly deterred from doing their job because of advocacy pressure. “Part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year,” Comey said Oct. 26.
Fields is an eleven-year veteran of the police force; he has been sued by a former Spring Valley student for using excessive force.