The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department confirmed Tuesday that both federal agencies are now investigating an incident at a Columbia area high school Monday, after cell phone video posted to social media showed a school resource officer violently pulling a non-compliant student of her chair and across the classroom floor.
DOJ said in a statement that its Civil Rights Division will be looking into the incident, along with South Carolina’s U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. “The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence in order to determine whether a federal law was violated,” the release stated. “As this is an ongoing investigation, per Department of Justice policy we are unable to comment further at this time.”
Earlier Tuesday, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott had requested the investigation into the incident involving one of his deputies who works as a school resource officer (SRO) at Spring Valley High School. Deputy Ben Fields is on administrative duties throughout the investigation. Several videos shot by students appear to show Fields yanking a female student out of her desk chair, causing it to flip to the ground as she resists. He then drags the student and desk across the floor before prying her free and flinging her towards the door.
A sheriff’s department spokesman said the officer had been called because the student was disrupting class and refusing a teacher’s orders to leave. The student was arrested and released to her parents. South Carolina Radio Network is not identifying the student at this time because she is a minor.
A second student was also arrested. 18-year-old Niya Kennedy was also arrested at the same time. Kennedy told WLTX-TV in Columbia that she was arguing about the officer’s actions when he also took her into custody.