The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have opened a joint investigation into the conduct of a school resource officer who was captured on video violently throwing a teenage girl, still in her desk, to the ground, and dragging her across the floor before handcuffing her.
The incident took place Monday at Spring Valley High School in Columbus, South Carolina. Deputy Ben Fields was reportedly called to the classroom when the student refused a teacher’s order to leave her math class.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 26, 2015
The investigation was initiated at the request of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. WISTV reports Lott called the special agent in charge of the FBI for South Carolina Monday night and filed a formal request with the Justice Department Tuesday morning.
“The public wants answers. I want answers too and we’re going to get them very quickly, and we’re going to make sure the public knows what we’re going to do and why we’re going to do it,” Lott told WISTV. “His actions reflect on all of us and I’m about as upset as anybody can be right now.”
The Department of Justice confirmed Tuesday that the Columbia FBI field office, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina had opened a civil rights investigation. “The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence in order to determine whether a federal law was violated,” the department said in a statement.
A student who captured the video of the incident on her cellphone was also arrested Monday.
Eighteen-year-old Niya Kenny told WLTX she was in disbelief as she filmed the altercation. “I couldn’t believe this was happening. I’ve never seen nothing like that in my life, like a man use that much force on a little girl. A big man, like 300 pounds of full muscle,” Kenny said.
Kenny said Fields handcuffed her when she protested her classmate’s treatment. She was charged with “disturbing school” and released on $1,000 bail.
Fields, who is currently on unpaid leave from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, has been banned from the district by school officials.