FBI to lead investigation of violent incident at Spring Valley High School
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The FBI will take the lead in investigating the incident involving a Spring Valley High School resource officer seen slamming and dragging a female student in a viral video released late Monday afternoon.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says the FBI will lead the investigation into this incident in an effort to curb questions of a "conflict of interest."
"A complete and thorough investigation is what we both want as well as the public," Lott said in a statement.
The incident was captured by several students with cell phones in a class at the high school some time Monday afternoon.
School officials confirmed the incident happened between a female student and school resource officer Ben Fields, a senior deputy with the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
Fields, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, was acting in response to the student, who was refusing to leave class.
"The student was told she was under arrest for disturbing school and given instructions which she again refused," Lott said. "The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested by the SRO."
The first two videos show Fields approaching the girl sitting at a desk in a classroom. Fields grabs the girl's arm while putting his own arm around the student's neck.
However, a third video from Instagram shows Fields try and pick the female student out of her desk, but the student then hits the officer while he brings the desk to the ground.
The person who posted the Instagram video says the student was initially asked to leave the class for telling the teacher that she would not put away her phone. The poster says the teacher disciplined the student with a write-up for being disrespectful and disobedient. After being asked to leave again, and her refusing, an administrator came to remove her, she refused, and that is when the SRO was called in.
The poster of this video claims when Fields got to the classroom, he asked her to get up from her desk 4 or 5 times and again, she tells him no. After moving objects from around the student, and asking again to leave the classroom, and her refusing, that is where you see the officer getting physical.
The Videos **WARNING: These videos do contain strong language. Discretion is advised.
This is the first video we obtained.
This second video was sent to us a short time later.
This third video surfaced overnight.
Parents of students at Spring Valley are reacting to the video. A group calling themselves the Richland Two Black Parents Association called the video "egregious" and "unacceptable."
"Parents are heartbroken as this is just another example of the intolerance that continues to be of issue in Richland School District Two particularly with families and children of color," the statement said. "As we have stated in the past, we stand ready to work in collaboration to address these horrible acts of violence and inequities among our children".
Richland School District Two superintendent Dr. Debbie Hamm released a statement, saying the district was deeply concerned about the videos and what they portrayed. Hamm says the district and sheriff's deputies are working in full cooperation to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.
Dr. Hugh Harmon the chairman of the district's Black Parents Association says the members of his group are outraged.
"It hurt, because I have a daughter in Richland Two. She's in elementary about to go into middle school. To get a phone call that, that would have happened to my daughter, I don't know how I would have responded," Dr. Harmon said.
Lott says he wants to know what happened beyond the video. He said his department will cooperate with the federal investigation.
"The public wants answers. I want answers too and we're going to get them very quickly, and we're going to make sure the public knows what we're going to do and why we're going to do it. There's nothing that we're going to hide at the Sheriff's Department," Lott said. "His actions reflect on all of us and I'm about as upset as anybody can be right now."
Fields will not be back at any school pending the results of an investigation, Lt. Wilson said. Fields is currently on unpaid leave.
"I'm as upset as anybody and I'm very disturbed by what I saw." Lott said. "Appropriate action is going to be taken. We're going to do it as quick as possible. This isn't something that's going to linger on for weeks, or months or even days. It's going to be done very swiftly."
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