The actions of a South Carolina sheriff's deputy who was caught on video violently arresting a high school girl were "justified," the ex-officer's attorney said Wednesday.
Ben Fields, 34, was fired late Wednesday morning after Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said he didn't feel the deputy used proper procedures during the Monday arrest of a 16-year-old Spring Valley High School student.
"The maneuver he used was not based on training, or acceptable," Lott said in a press briefing announcing Fields' termination.
Several students filmed Fields flipping the girl over in her chair and dragging her across the floor. The video went viral soon after.
Fields, who had been assigned to the Columbia high school as a school resource officer, has not been charged with any crime. The FBI and the Department of Justice are conducting probes into whether the ex-deputy, who is white, violated the civil rights of the student, who is black.
Scott Hayes, Fields' attorney, did not immediately respond to requests for comment but released a statement thanking those who supported Fields and defending his actions in the Monday arrest.
First and foremost, Mr. Ben Fields would like to acknowledge and personally thank all of those who have offered their support of his actions during Monday's incident that occurred at Spring Valley High School. The Positive response and heartfelt support of Ben has been overwhelming.
We believe that Mr. Fields' actions were justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident. 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.
Mr. Fields welcomes the opportunity to address the particulars at the appropriate time. However, since this matter is presently under investigation with federal authorities, he is respectfully declining to make a statement at this time.
Until such time, there will be no further public comments from Mr. Fields or on his behalf.
Fields joined the sheriff's office in 2004 and became a school resource officer in 2008. He has been sued twice for his conduct in his time with the sheriff's department. A jury ruled in Fields' favor in a 2007 excessive force suit, and the deputy is awaiting trial on the second suit over a student's alleged wrongful expulsion.
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