SC prosecutor refuses to charge cop seen throwing black student from her chair
A South Carolina prosecutor has decided against criminally charging a former sheriff’s deputy who was caught on video flipping a black high school student out of her chair and throwing her across a classroom, local media reported on Friday.
Columbia, South Carolina-based television station WLTX reported Fifth District Solicitor Dan Johnson has also dismissed charges of disturbing school that had been brought against the student and another girl in the classroom who spoke out against the incident. The deputy, who is white, was fired last year.
An attorney for the deputy and another lawyer who represented the girl could not be reached for comment.
A video of the arrest in October 2015 at Spring Valley High School in Columbia quickly went viral, reigniting concerns that the proliferation of police in U.S. schools can criminalize behavior once handled more quietly by school officials.
Ben Fields, then a Richland County sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school, could be seen in the video flipping the girl from her chair to the floor and hurtling her across a classroom before arresting her. Authorities said last year the girl had refused educators’ orders to put away her phone and leave the class.
Johnson, in a letter to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, wrote there was not probable cause to charge Fields but that he did agree with the decision the local sheriff made to fire him two days after the incident, according to WLTX.
In deciding against bringing charges, Johnson cited Fields’ perception of the situation with the student and her resistance to him, according to WLTX.
Johnson, like the student, is African-American.
A representative for the prosecutor could not be reached for comment.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Hay)