Footage of a South Carolina cop picking up and throwing an uncooperative schoolgirl galvanized the internet Monday.
Videos, recorded from at least three angles, show an uncooperative student sullenly rooted in her seat as an officer, identified as Deputy Ben Fields, commands her to leave the classroom with him. She ignores him, and after a few rounds of being ignored, he moves to grab her.
After she falls to the ground, he drags her, then throws her across the room as a teacher stands nervously to one side.
Richland County Sheriff's department's Lt. Curtis Wilson told reporters that Fields' actions were under investigation and that he had been placed on administrative leave, wrote Buzzfeed reporters Stephanie McNeal, Claudia Koerner and Tamerra Griffin. "The deputy was called to the classroom after a student was being disruptive and refused to leave after being asked to do so by a teacher and vice principal."
Sheriff Leon Lott was "very disturbed" by the video, according to Wilson. The American Civil Liberties Union said there was "no justification" for the incident in a statement to the BBC.
Columbia, S.C. Mayor Steve Benjamin issued a statement saying that "we cannot and will not accept this kind of behavior from a law enforcement officer" and called for an independent investigation.
— Jimmy Paradise (@HIFTBABG) October 27, 2015
Neil Feit of The State reports that a female and a male student were arrested for breaching the peace, but it is not clear if these arrests included the girl in the video.
The footage went viral almost immediately after the incident, and the hashtag #AssaultatSpringValleyHigh trending on Twitter.
In the hours since the incident, though, Fields' history of alleged violence toward children at the school and other citizens—including an Army veteran—has come under scrutiny.
Gawker's Brendan O'Connor reports that he was accused of pushing a pregnant girl against a wall in 2012
Ex-students on Twitter have also been discussing an incident in which Fields allegedly had a physical altercation with a pregnant student at the school, a story repeated in the comments of a 2012 blog post alleging an excessive force complaint against Fields, accompanied by a since-deleted video.
Just for good measure, here is a video of someone identified as Fields bench-pressing 600 pounds.
A classmate of the unidentified victim says she was arrested too after trying to help.
"I was crying, screaming and crying like a baby," says Kenny. "I was in disbelief."
"I know this girl don't got nobody and I couldn't believe this was happening," Kenny explained. "I had never seen nothing like that in my life, a man use that much force on a little girl. A big man, like 300 pounds of full muscle. I was like 'no way, no way.' You can't do nothing like that to a little girl. I'm talking about she's like 5'6"."
Kenny says her classmate was not participating and was asked to leave the room by her teacher. When she refused an administrator was called in and asked her to leave. She refused and Officer Fields was called in, asking her the same thing.
Kenny filmed a part of the altercation on her phone. The six second video shows Officer Fields arresting the student.
Army veteran Carlos Martin sued Fields after the deputy "emptied an entire can of pepper spray" on him after he called Fields "dude." The New York Daily News reports the lawsuit went nowhere, though witnesses heard Fields describe the rough arrest as "another notch in my belt."
"I recognized him on the spot. I remembered how big he was," the 36-year-old Army veteran told the Daily News.
… Martin said the beefy officer "snapped" after he called him "dude," and slammed him on the ground. He began pepper-spraying the helpless veteran, but Martin said he was trained in the military to resist the chemicals. An entire canister of the stuff failed to disable Martin.
"He became even more violent because I didn't react like most people would," Martin told the News.
His wife at the time, Tashiana Rogers, witnessed the fracas, and ran outside to take photos of the violent encounter with her cellphone.
The Guardian reports a community beset by racial tension following an increase in the size of the black community—and another lawsuit filed against Fields over racial abuse. Fields is white; his victim Monday was black.
Fields has a history of alleged aggression during arrests. … In a second federal suit a high school student named Ashton James Reese is suing Fields for allegedly falsely accusing him of being in a gang. In court papers Reese's attorney claims Fields "recklessly targets African American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity". That suit is pending.