A video showing a South Carolina deputy manhandling a Black student has sparked a national uproar. Sheriff Leon Lott announced at a press conference held earlier today that the Richland County deputy has been fired.
Although Lott downplayed the girl’s injuries, Todd Rutherford, a Columbia, S.C.-based attorney representing the girl’s family, said she sustained bodily harm from the attack.
“She now has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries. She has a Band-Aid on her forehead where she suffered rug burn on her forehead,” said Rutherford in an interview with Good Morning America.
The student in question allegedly refused to leave class after she was disciplined for using her cell phone. Fields, who served as school resource officer, was called to remove her from class and that’s when the situation got out of hand. Cell phone video captured Fields upending the student’s desk and dragging her across the floor.
Niya Kenny, a classmate of the girl at Spring Valley High School, said Fields had a reputation for violence and was known as “Officer Slam.” Kenny told her classmates to film the encounter, because she suspected something bad was going to happen. She was later arrested and held on a $1,000 bond for filming the assault.
“I’ve heard about him, so I wasn’t really surprised, because I’ve heard so much about him,” said Kenny in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “Before he came to the class, I was actually telling [classmates], ‘Take out your cameras because I feel like this is gonna go downhill because I’ve heard so much about him.’”
The incident has also exposed racial divisions in the community. Some Black parents question if a white student would have been treated this way.
“If that was a white girl sitting there at the desk, whatever the situation was, you wouldn’t have seen her being thrown across the room,” said Kyle Lacio according to WSPA, a local news outlet.
However, some parents defended Fields and said there wasn’t anything racial about the incident. According to WSPA, Rebecca Woodford, whose children attend Spring Valley High School, said, “My daughters all love him.”
“This is not a race issue,” she continued. “This deputy is actually dating a black woman.”
However, being involved with a Black person doesn’t stop a person from harboring racist attitudes. School board chairman James Manning said he found the incident “deeply disturbing.”
“The amount of force used on a female student by a male officer appears to me to be excessive and unnecessary,” Manning said in a statement.
During a school board hearing, some community members accused the board of negligence for not looking into Fields’ background. In the past, Fields was sued for using excessive force, and is currently facing charges for accusing Black students of being gang members, according to Newsweek.
The FBI and Justice Department are currently investigating the incident for possible civil rights violations.