COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Fifth Circuit Solicitor's Office has released its investigatory report about an incident involving a school resource officer and a student at Spring Valley High School last year. The full report paints a clearer picture of the October 2015 incident that was recorded by several nearby students and subsequently posted to the Internet.
Solicitor Dan Johnson's 12-page report found that the firing of Deputy Ben Fields, who dragged a student from her desk and slammed her on the ground, was both "appropriate and necessary" and recommended charges against two students in this case be dropped.
"In conclusion, while I do not believe that the actions of Benjamin Fields in this incident rise to the level of criminal conduct, the manner in which he performed his duties on Oct. 26, 2015 is of great concern to me not only as a prosecutor, but also as a citizen of this community with a deep interest in the manner in which law enforcement personnel are being utilized in our schools," Johnson wrote in the report.
The report said the incident began after the still unidentified student repeatedly logged into her e-mail account on her school-issued laptop instead of doing the required coursework. After the teacher repeatedly closed the student's email program through a remote system, the report says, the student began playing on her cell phone.
"[The teacher] asked the student to give him her cell phone, at which point she refused and told [him] to 'get out of her face.' As a result of her actions, [the teacher] wrote a discipline referral for the student," the report said.
After the student refused to leave the classroom, the report said, a school administrator and Fields entered the classroom. Fields, according to the report, approached the student and attempted to reason with her to leave the classroom without incident. The student continued to be non-compliant, and Fields advised her she was under arrest.
"While Fields was attempting to effectuate a lawful arrest, an altercation between himself and the student occurred," the report said.
The incident in question was filmed and witnessed by several students in the classroom. Fifteen witnesses, including Niya Kenny, one of the other girls charged with disturbing schools, gave statements to the Solicitor's Office. The charge against Kenny has been dropped.
Two of the witnesses told investigators the video looked worse than what actually happened. In fact, a statement from the student's guardian agreed with the student's punishment, which was later rescinded, of a three-day suspension -- even after viewing the video.
"According to the guardian, after viewing the video of Field's altercation with the student, the guardian believe that Fields did not do anything that was inappropriate," the report said.
Johnson continued, and said after further review of the incident, witness statements, statements from Fields, the student's guardian and the student herself, that Fields' conduct did not require criminal charges.
Fields was fired by the Richland County Sheriff's Department just days after the incident, and Johnson said Sheriff Leon Lott was well within his right to do so.
"There is a large section of the public that does not approve of Fields' action on that day, and while Sheriff Lott was certainly entitled to take, and in my opinion, should have taken, the same position, the ramifications of said termination and the timing of it cannot be ignored," the report said.
Rep. Todd Rutherford, the attorney for both girls in this incident released a statement.
"My clients are glad to have this chapter of their lives behind them and glad to see justice served," Rutherford said.
Dr. Hugh Harmon with Richland Two's Black Parents Association, said regardless of the findings, there have been positive changes.
"Even the district has made some changes and made some improvements," Harmon said.
We've reached out to Fields' attorney for a statement.