Update at 12:24 pm, Oct. 27: The secretary of the Richland School District Two Board of Trustees released an email statement regarding the incident with Deputy Ben Fields. Here is Activist Shaun King’s tweet with the statement:
After video of resource officer Ben Fields assaulting a Black female high school student in a Columbia, SC classroom has gone viral, a local sheriff has requested that the SC FBI and the US Justice department intervene for an independent investigation of the incident.
The episode took place at Richland County’s Spring Valley High School where Fields was brought into the classroom to remove a student that was allegedly being disruptive. However, Fields’ actions that were caught on camera by students quickly sparked outrage online yesterday, Monday afternoon, as Fields violently and abruptly swing and tackled the peaceful female student before she could follow his order to get out of her chair. Fields arrested a second student who has been identified as Niya Kenny, 18, for trying to intervene and help her classmate who had been assaulted.
Both Kenny and the assault victim were later released.
The local superintendent, Dr. Libby Roof has spoken out saying the district will not “tolerate” such violence and will be hosting its own investigation while cooperating with the demands of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. However, it is the request from Sheriff Leon Lott to get federal agencies involved that may accelerate and ultimately close the case.
Lott announced late Monday that Deputy Fields will not be returning to any school and is not working for the department at the moment, given the current investigation.
Here are some additional facts we know about Deputy Fields that are relevant to the case:
1) He Has Been Sued For Excessive Force Before
In 2007, a couple pursued legal action against Fields for a “rough arrest.” Fields had released pepper spray on a Black army veteran for parking next to him and for playing loud music. Fields arrested him for breach of peace, then roughly arrested his wife and confiscated her phone after she tried to take photos of the incident. The couple sued for illegal seizure, false arrest, excessive force and battery. The man who was arrested also claimed to have suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. The jury later ruled in Fields’ favor.
2) He Has A History Of Racially Profiling Black Teens
In a second lawsuit from 2013, Ashton James Reese, a Black high school student, claimed Fields wrongfully accused him of being involved with gang activity, assault and battery in a parking lot near Spring Valley High during an investigation. This lawsuit is still pending.
3) He’s Known For His Exceptionally Hefty, Strong Build
Fields is nicknamed as “The Incredible Hulk” by Spring Valley High School students. In addition to being a senior deputy assigned to the school, he is a football and strength coach—meaning he likely used an incredible and excessive amount of force to detain the assault victim. There are videos of Fields lifting weights on YouTube for competitive bodybuilding.
4) He Threatened The Assault Victim Before Throwing Her From Her Chair
In one of the videos portraying the assault, Fields is quoted as saying: “Are you going to come with me or am I going to make you?” When addressing Kenny, the second student who tried to intervene, Fields said: “I’ll put you in jail next.”
5) He Has A Reputation For Roughing Up Teens, Including A Pregnant Girl
As the hashtag, #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh was gaining traction on Twitter to bring awareness to yesterday’s incident, current and former students came forward with accounts of having witnessed Deputy Fields’ excessive force with high schoolers in the past. One user, @FakeAsian_ tweeted, “I was coming from lunch and saw Deputy Fields slam that pregnant woman. I was frozen in shock at how he was man handling her.”
Correction: An earlier version of this report wrongly stated that neither Kenny nor the assault victim were injured in the attack. The assault victim’s lawyer has since come forward saying that the victim sustained neck and back injuries and has a cast on her arm.