South Carolina Officer Who Threw Student Across Classroom Won't Be Charged
The officer's actions were caught on a video that went viral, prompting his firing. Prosecutors, however, said they did not find his actions criminal.
A school resource officer who was caught on video violently trying to pull a student out of her chair and before throwing her across the room last year in South Carolina will not face criminal charges, prosecutors announced Friday.
The former deputy, Ben Fields, was fired in October after video of him throwing the student after she refused to leave the classroom at the request of the teacher went viral.
Officials said Fields had not followed his training or department protocol in the incident as he tried to take the student into custody for allegedly disturbing the classroom.
The summary, obtained by BuzzFeed News, includes a statement Fields gave investigators through his attorney, in which he states the student punched him in the face and the chair she was in fell backwards "because of the momentum that the student's movements had created."
Fields stated he was trying to pull her out of the chair once she was on the ground, but her foot was caught on the chair.
"As I continued to use the muscling technique the students leg broke free from the lock the student had on the desk and the student slid across the floor," he wrote.
Another video of the of the incident did show the high school student punching the deputy in the face, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said in October. Still, Lott said the former deputy had not followed proper training or procedure.
In an 11-page summary released Friday, 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson announced that he believed Field's actions did not merit criminal charges.
The decision came 11 months after the investigation was sparked.
"(I)t is my legal opinion that under the relevant law, SRO Fields' conduct on October 26, 2015, does not warrant criminal charges," the decision states.
According report, the student's guardian also reviewed the video the day after the altercation, and told investigators they believed "Fields did not do anything that was inappropriate."
"The guardian believes that the chair fell over because Fields was trying to remove the student from the chair. The guardian does not believe that Fields was trying to remove the student from the chair."
Investigators also reviewed the students' medical records after the altercation, and found she suffered minor bruises and a minor fracture in her wrist.
The prosecutor's statement also seemed to be critical of the sheriff's decision to fire Fields in the middle of the investigation, stating that the decision was "injurious to the prosecution of the case(s)."
"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 states.
However, it noted "Sheriff Lott was well within his rights to terminate Fields' employment for said conduct."
The report did not specify how Field's firing affected the investigation.
The student who was thrown by Fields and the student who recorded and posted the viral video of the confrontation were also detained on suspicion of disturbing schools, a criminal misdemeanor in South Carolina.
Johnson, however, concluded the evidence did not support filing charges against either student.