South CarolinaDeputy Officer Ben Fields was fired on Wednesday, Oct. 28, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott in a press conference that same day. Videos of Fields throwing and dragging a student across the floor at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina went viral on social media earlier this week, prompting an investigation from the sheriff’s department, the state’s attorney’s office, as well as a federal probe into whether Fields violated the civil rights of the 16-year-old female student.
“Deputy Fields did not follow proper training, did not follow proper procedure when he threw the student across the room,” Lott said in the press conference.
Field’s behavior was quickly condemned by those who watched the video on social media, school officials and even presidential candidates. On Tuesday, Oct. 27, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted, “There is no excuse for violence inside a school. The #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh is unacceptable—schools should be safe places.”
Still, Lott shifted some of the blame for the incident on the student, describing her as “very disruptive and very disrespectful.” Fields arrested the student after she reportedly refused to put away her cellphone at the teacher’s request.
“We must not lose sight that the whole incident was started by the student,” Lott said.
The student and one of her peers in the class, 18-year-old Niya Kenny, were both charged with disturbing the school, USA Today reports. On Wednesday, Lott said that he understood the charges against both students have been not dropped. Kenny claims she was standing up for her classmate when she was taken into custody, according to WLTX 19.
“I know this girl don’t got nobody and I couldn’t believe this was happening,” Kenny said in an interview with WLTX 19. “I had 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 nothing like that to a little girl.”
Questions of racial motives for the violent arrest were discussed heavily as the video went viral. On Tuesday, Lott denied race was a factor because Fields “has been dating an African-American woman for quite some time.”
On Wednesday, Lott said he welcomed people taking videos of officers doing their job.
“As in any incident, videos are very useful to us,” Lott said on Wednesday. “We’re glad that students took the videos.”
Still, Lott warned that videos are just a snapshot and “don’t tell the complete picture.”
Fields, who joined the sheriff’s office in 2004 and became a school resource officer in 2008, has been sued twice before over his alleged misconduct.