On Monday (Oct. 26), a student at Columbia, S.C.’s Spring Valley High School was asked to leave a classroom after using her phone during a math class. She refused, and was later confronted by Richland County Senior Deputy Ben Fields, who asked her to leave, and then proceeded to attack her. He grab her by the neck, slammed her desk to the floor and then dragged her out of the desk. The footage went viral as the masses began to react on social media.
Here’s everything you should know.
- Richland County deputy Ben Fields had a history of excessive force violations. In an exclusive report by the New York Daily News, 36-year-old Army veteran Carlos Martin filed a lawsuit against Fields for a 2005 arrest. Responding to a noise complaint, Fields approached Martin, who was playing music from his car. After Martin referred to the officer as “dude,” Fields slammed him to the ground and doused a full can of pepper spray into his face. he reportedly called Martin “another notch in my belt.” A jury later ruled in Officer Fields’ favor. [New York Daily News]
- Fields is also involved in a current lawsuit in which he is being accused of targeting “African-American students with allegations of gang membership.” Fields was one of ten officers named in the case, which led to the expulsion of Ashton James Reese. Fields has been placed on administrative leave. The trial is set to begin in January 2016. [Heavy]
The teacher in the classroom was Robert Long, who has taught at Spring Valley High school for sixteen years. A student took to Twitter to detail the incident.
Just to be clear, before the video, she was sitting quietly at her desk. Did nothing to provoke the officer
— Aaron Johnson (@Aaron___J) October 27, 2015
The officer came in because she wouldnt leave the class when the teacher toild her to. I still don’t know what she did to be asked to leave. — Aaron Johnson (@Aaron___J) October 27, 2015
Sheriff department response
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott reportedly said, “The student was told she was under arrest for disturbing school and given instructions which she again refused. The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested by the SRO,” according to WISTV10. Lott has also called on for an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. [WISTV]
School district response
Amelia B. McKie, secretary for the Richland School District Two Board of Trustees, released a written statement to the New York Daily News’ Shaun King.
“I do not condone the actions by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department Resource Office as enacted upon the Spring Valley High School student. The officer is on administrative leave, without pay. I am adamant that the Resource Officer will not return to any Richland Two School,” she wrote. [Twitter]
Just received an important email from the secretary of the school board concerning Officer Ben Fields. Don’t let up pic.twitter.com/0gelSDdfcN
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 27, 2015
Student who taped the incident speaks out
Tony Robinson Jr, the student who recorded the incident, said that the girl was being asked to leave the classroom for taking out her phone. She was asked by the teacher and by an administrator to leave the classroom, but she refused. Officer Fields was then called into the room, where he asked the student surrounding the girl to move their desks, closing the girl’s computer and moving it to another desk. Robinson said that while the girl refused to leave the classroom, she was “apologetic.”
“I’ve never seen anything so nasty looking, so sick to the point that you know, other students are turning away, don’t know what to do, and are just scared for their lives,” he said. “That’s supposed to be somebody that’s going to protect us. Not somebody that we need to be scare off, or afraid. That was wrong. There was no justifiable reason for why he did that to that girl.” [WLTX9]
Other student arrested speaks out
Niya Kenny, the 18-year-old student who was arrested for helping the girl who was assaulted by Officer Fields, spoke to WLTX about the incident. She said that after she spoke out for the victim, Fields threatened her, and she decided to surrender to the arrest.
“I was crying, literally screaming crying like a baby. […] I was in disbelief. I know this girl don’t got nobody, and I couldn’t believe this was happening. I’ve never seen nothing like that in my life. A man use that much force on a little girl. A big man, like 300 pounds of full muscle? I was like ‘No way, no way.’ You can’t do that to no little girl. I’m talking ‘bout, she’s like 5’6.” [WLTX9]