The FBI and the US Department of Justice have launched an investigation into the white South Carolina police officer videotaped body slamming a black high school girl on 26 October. The incident occurred at Spring Valley High School after the girl allegedly refused to comply with the resource officer's commands.
A 15-second video recorded by a peer captured the confrontation in which Deputy Ben Fields is seen approaching the girl before putting her in a chokehold and body slamming her to the ground. Fields then flips the girl towards the front of the classroom, pinning her to the floor and placing her in handcuffs. According to United Press International (UPI), another female student was arrested after she protested Fields's treatment of the first student.
WLTX-TV reported that while the exact events that led up to the incident are unclear, students claim that it began when their teacher attempted to confiscate the girl's mobile phone, which she had allegedly used in the classroom. When she refused to hand over her phone, Deputy Fields was called in.
The initial clip, as well as a second, longer video, sparked outrage on social media. On 26 October, the Richland County Sheriff's Department announced that the department and its internal affairs division were investigating the incident and that Fields had been placed on administrative leave. A day later, it was announced that federal authorities have opened a civil rights investigation into the incident, UPI reported.
"The Columbia FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division, and the US Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina have opened civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of a student at Spring Valley High School," FBI Special Agent in Charge David A Thomas said in a statement. "The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence in order to determine whether a federal law was violated. As this is an ongoing investigation, per Department of Justice policy we are unable to comment further at this time."
The DOJ and FBI's assistance was requested by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, who said he was "totally disturbed" by the video. "It's very disturbing what happened. It's something I have to deal with and that's what we're going to be doing," he said. Meanwhile, US Attorney for South Carolina William Nettles told The State, "I hope the community will remain calm so that we can conduct a thorough and thoughtful investigation."