The South Carolina school resource officer who hurled a student to the ground and dragged her across her classroom on Monday has been sued twice before.
In 2007, a motorist accused Richland County Deputy Ben Fields of using excessive force when he was a rookie cop in Columbia, South Carolina. In a second case, expected to go to trial in January, Fields is one of 10 defendants answering a student's charge that he was wrongly expelled from the same high school where Monday's altercation took place.
Carlos Edward Martin sued Fields, another deputy and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott in 2007, claiming that Fields attacked him after pulling him over. Martin said Fields slammed him to the ground, kicked him, handcuffed him and sprayed him with mace. Fields "snapped" when Martin called him "dude," according to the New York Daily News. However, a jury ruled in favor of Fields.
The description of that encounter sounds similarly violent to Fields' recent, filmed takedown of the Spring Valley High School student who authorities say disobeyed orders to leave class.
Video shows the white officer flipping the black student's desk as he pulls her up from her seat. Fields can be seen dragging her to the front of the classroom and arresting her -- for disturbing school, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
A teacher and assistant principal had asked the student to leave the classroom before summoning Fields, according to Richland County Sheriff's Department Deputy Katelyn Jasak.
The department also charged another student, Niya Kenny, with disturbing school. Kenny said she was arrested for sticking up for her classmate.
Lott has placed Fields on administrative duty and has asked the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate. He's banned from schools pending the outcome of the review, the sheriff's department said.
"The Columbia FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina have opened a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of a student at Spring Valley High School," a Department of Justice spokeswoman said in a statement.
"The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence in order to determine whether a federal law was violated," the statement said. "As this is an ongoing investigation, per Department of Justice policy we are unable to comment further at this time."
A separate lawsuit from former Spring Valley High School student Ashton James Reese contends that Fields, whose duties involved investigating gangs, wrongly accused Reese of being a gang member. There was a lack of due process, negligence and negligent supervision when Reese was expelled, according the lawsuit.
Fields began working as a school resource officer in 2008 and has split his time between the high school and Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School, according to Jasak. At the elementary school, he won a "culture of excellence" award last year.
Resource officers are there to serve as "law enforcement officers, law enforcement educators and law-related counselors," Jasak said. "They're there to serve as role models."
Attempts to reach Fields were unsuccessful. School officials did not return calls for comment.