SC Officer Fired After Classroom Confrontation Video, Lawyer Says He Acted 'Professionally'
The video showed the school resource officer tossing a girl to the ground.
— -- The school resource officer at a South Carolina high school who was filmed tossing a teen from her desk and dragging her during an arrest has been fired, officials announced today.
That officer, identified by the Richland County Sheriff's office as Ben Fields, was initially put on unpaid leave after the video surfaced this week.
The officer's lawyer, Scott Hayes, said that his client was "justified" in his actions and that he acted "professionally."
"We believe that Mr. Fields' actions were justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident," Hayes said in a statement. "To that extent, we believe that Mr. Fields' actions were carried out professionally and that he was performing his job duties within the legal threshold."
Today's announcement comes after Sheriff Leon Lott said on Tuesday that an internal investigation would determine whether Fields would be fired. He said that the internal investigation determined that he was not wrong to try and remove the student from the classroom, after being asked to do so from the teacher and a school administrator, but the problem came in how he attempted to do that.
"I do not feel that the proper procedures were used at that point," Lott said today of how Fields tried to remove the student.
Lott noted that Fields was in his right to "put his hands on her" but it was how he tried to remove her after that. Lott said that his procedure "continues to upset me when I see that video."
"That is not a proper technique and should not be used in law enforcement," Lott said during today's news conference.
The sheriff's department's internal investigation unit reported to Lott that Fields did not follow proper procedure, and there is a criminal investigation underway by the FBI.
The female student's attorney told ABC News today that she suffered injuries to her head, arm, neck and back during the incident.
Lott said that the student does hold some responsibility for what happened in the Columbia classroom on Monday, but "what she did doesn't justify what our deputy did."
Both the teacher and the school administrator who were in the room, as well as one of the students who filmed the altercation were interviewed by the police and said that they believed Fields "acted appropriately, and that he didn't use excessive force and he did what was necessary," Lott said.
Fields had received complaints in the past, some of which were sustained, Lott said, but none had ever come from the school district.
"He tried to do his job," Lott said of Fields. "It happened very quickly. His actions were something that if he probably had to do it over again he'd probably have done it differently."
The attorney representing Fields released a statement later this afternoon, noting that Fields would not making a direct statement until the end of the federal investigation.
"We believe that Mr. Fields' actions were justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident," his lawyer Scott J. Hayes said in a statement. "To that extent, we believe that Mr. Fields' actions were carried out professionally and that he was performing his job duties within the legal threshold."