Quantcast
Connect with us

FBI to investigate violent arrest of black South Carolina student

Published

on

Federal authorities said on Tuesday they will investigate a white deputy’s arrest of a black high school student in South Carolina, after video showed him slamming the teenager to the ground and dragging her across a classroom.

The actions by officer Ben Fields at Spring Valley High School in Columbia on Monday drew swift condemnation after video recordings of the incident were picked up by media outlets and posted on social media.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department opened a civil rights probe of the arrest to determine if federal law was broken, the agencies said in a statement.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott sought the independent investigations of the incident, which comes amid heightened scrutiny of the use of force by U.S. police, particularly against minorities.

A hashtag #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh was trending nationwide within hours of the arrest, which also garnered attention on Tuesday from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“There is no excuse for violence inside a school,” Clinton tweeted. “The #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh is unacceptable —schools should be safe places.”

Fields has been placed on administrative duties, meaning for now he will not patrol streets or work as a school resource officer, said sheriff’s Lieutenant Curtis Wilson.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Richland School District Two barred Fields from returning to any of its 40 schools during the investigation, and district officials said they would not tolerate behavior that jeopardized the safety of students.

“The amount of force used on a female student by a male officer appears to me to be excessive and unnecessary,” said James Manning, chairman of the Richland Two Board of Trustees.

Fields did not reply to an email request for comment.

ADVERTISEMENT

The deputy has worked for the sheriff’s office since 2004 and joined its school resource officer program in 2008, according to an agency newsletter. Last November, an elementary school where he also is assigned presented him with a “Culture of Excellence Award.”

Fields “has proven to be an exceptional role model to the students he serves and protects,” the newsletter said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lott told a local television station that Fields went to a classroom Monday afternoon after a student refused a teacher’s request to leave.

A video apparently recorded by another pupil shows Fields approaching the sitting girl, wrapping his arm under her chin and flipping her desk with her in it.

Fields then drags her from the chair and tosses her on the floor, as students look on, before handcuffing her.

ADVERTISEMENT

The girl, who does not appear to resist or argue, was arrested for “disturbing school” and released to her family, Wilson said.

A founding member of the Richland Two Black Parents Association said the group was saddened but not surprised.

The parents association, which has 5,700 members after being formed a year ago, has called for a Justice Department probe into what it says are long-standing discriminatory practices by the school district, said Stephen Gilchrist, who has one son who graduated from Spring Valley High and another attending now.

The district has a legacy of expelling and suspending large numbers of African-American students, he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

A school spokeswoman did not immediately respond to Gilchrist’s claim. Nearly 59 percent of the district’s 27,500 students are black, officials said.

“What we have been saying for the last several years is that there are some real issues with the school district,” Gilchrist said. “We don’t want this to be about just this officer. There is much more going on that has helped create a culture of discrimination within this district.”

Court records show Fields has been named as a defendant in two federal lawsuits, most recently in 2013 in a case that claims he “unfairly and recklessly targets African-American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity.” A jury trial is set for Jan. 27 in Columbia.

In a 2007 case, a jury decided in favor of Fields and another deputy accused by a Columbia couple of unreasonable and excessive force during an investigation of a noise complaint.

ADVERTISEMENT

Fields became agitated and increasingly angry while questioning the husband, court documents said. “Deputy Fields’ unprovoked anger escalated to the point that he grabbed plaintiff Carlos Martin, slammed him to the ground, cuffed him, began kicking him and chemically maced him until his clothing was drenched and the contents of the can of mace was depleted,” according to lawsuit documents.

The lawsuit also accused Fields of making ridiculing and suggestive comments to the wife. The couple appealed but the judgment was upheld.

(Additional reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, South Carolina and Suzannah Gonzales in New York; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by James Dalgleish)


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump has rolled out a ‘new scam’ amid internal turmoil over Fauci: op-ed

Published

on

Writing in the Washington Post this Thursday, Greg Sargent takes a look at the Trump's administration's recent walkback of its attempts to undermine its top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, after they discovered that it wasn't being received by the public so well.

According to Sargent, President Trump's "new scam" is to present the image that his administration actually respects Fauci's advice while continuing to undermine him behind the scenes.

"What’s really going on here is a kind of two-step, a double game," Sargent writes. "Trump and his advisers want him to reap the political benefits of appearing to harbor general respect for Fauci’s expertise, while simultaneously continuing to undermine Fauci’s actual claims about the threat the novel coronavirus will continue to pose — because those claims badly undermine Trump’s reelection message."

Continue Reading

2020 Election

GOP strategist who wrote party’s 2012 autopsy says she hopes the party loses this year

Published

on

Former Republican strategist Sally Bradshaw, who wrote the GOP's so-called "autopsy" after its 2012 election losses, is hoping the party comes crashing down in defeat this fall.

In an email to NPR, Bradshaw conceded that the 2012 election postmortem was "obviously a failure," given that President Donald Trump had taken over the party in 2016 by explicitly ignoring its recommendations about taking a more inclusive approach to immigration reform.

However, she also seemed to think that the GOP's bill for not becoming a more inclusive party had finally come due given its failures to govern through a deadly pandemic that so far has claimed the lives of 137,000 Americans with no end in sight.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Brutal video targeting moms hits Trump for trying to hurt their children by returning to school in pandemic

Published

on

President Donald Trump and Education Sec. Betsy DeVos announced this month that schools must reopen regardless of the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic. Republican leaders have maintained that not being in school is so detrimental to the development of children that parents must risk their lives and the lives of their families, teachers, principals, and other school administration members.

Author Don Winslow posted a video directed at mothers recalling all of the great moments in a child's development from their first words to their first steps and their first days of school.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image