COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – The Richland County deputy seen in a viral video dragging a female student out of her desk in a Columbia school Monday was cleared of excessive force accusations in a previous case. Senior Deputy Ben Fields was a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School in Columbia.
Monday, a math teacher asked a student to leave the classroom after she pulled out her phone in class. The student refused. The teacher then called an administrator who also asked the student to leave and she refused again. The administrator then called Fields. He also asked her several times to leave but she refused. Video shot by several classmates show Fields grab the student by her arm, then put his other arm around her neck and try to pull her out of the chair, as she starts trying to hit him. The desk falls over and then Fields drags her out of the desk and across the floor to the front of the room.
Fields’ training records show he got School Resource Officer training at the state Criminal Justice Academy in 2009-2010. That training included sessions on “Juvenile Procedures” and “Child Abuse.”
He’s been a deputy since 2004 and a school resource officer since 2008.
In 2007, while he was still on patrol, Carlos Martin filed a federal civil suit against Fields, along with Sheriff Leon Lott and another deputy. He says Fields used excessive force, slamming Martin to the ground, kicking him, and spraying him with an entire can of mace. Martin says it was unprovoked. But a federal jury found for Deputy Fields.
Fields is also a defendant, along with several others, in another lawsuit that’s still pending, but that case does not involve the use of force. In that suit, a former Spring Valley student says he was expelled unfairly, after Fields investigated possible gang activity.
Last fall, Fields was given Richland District 2’s “Culture of Excellence” award for his work as a school resource officer at both Spring Valley High and Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary. The award says he’s “proven to be an exceptional role model.”
But now, the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI are investigating to see if Fields violated the student’s civil rights. Sheriff Leon Lott is also investigating. Fields is on unpaid administrative leave, and Richland 2 has banned him from working at any of its schools.
Tuesday afternoon, SC NAACP conference of branches president Dr. Lonnie Randolph said he watched the video several times and doesn’t think Fields reacted properly to the student’s refusal to leave class. “To be thrown out of her seat as she was thrown, and to be dumped on the floor as she was thrown, I don’t think that was the appropriate way to respond,” he said.