The Latest: Sheriff says he doesn't think race played a role

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Posted: Oct 27, 2015 5:27 PM
The Latest: Sheriff says he doesn't think race played a role

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Here are the latest developments in the confrontation between a South Carolina deputy and a student recorded on cellphone video (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

A South Carolina sheriff says he doesn't think that race played a role in his officer's arrest of a female high school student.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Tuesday that the deputy that made the arrest, Ben Fields, has been dating an African-American woman for "quite some time." He says that if that had any bearing on the arrest, it would have been in a positive way, not a negative one.

Video of the arrest shows a deputy flipping a student backward in her desk and tossing her across the floor for refusing to leave her math class.

He said the videos are tremendously helpful, but offer only a snapshot that's part of the investigation.

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5:10 p.m.

A South Carolina sheriff says a video of an officer's arrest of a female student shows her hitting the officer.

But Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Tuesday that his internal investigation is looking into the actions of his officer, not the student's action.

Lott says he hopes to have the results of his agency's internal investigation within 24 hours and then he will determine whether Senior Deputy Ben Fields will keep his job. He is currently suspended.

The Justice Department is also investigating.

Video shows a deputy flipping a student backward in her desk and tossing her across the floor for refusing to leave her math class. Lott says she may have had a rug burn but was not otherwise injured.

Lott called the video disturbing.

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4:55 p.m.

The board chairman for Richland County School District 2 says the video of the arrest of a female student was "shamefully shocking."

Chairman James Manning spoke at a news conference Tuesday along with other district leaders. They said the video was disturbing but they wouldn't answer questions about when school resource officers should put their hands on students, saying that was up to the sheriff's department to answer.

The school's principal Jeff Temoney said Tuesday that he was deeply disturbed by the arrest. He says he met with students from the class and they have talked about the incident.

The school has about 2,000 students. Temoney has been principal for about 16 months.

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3:30 p.m.

The head of the NAACP in South Carolina says the civil rights group is deeply concerned with the aggressive nature of an officer's arrest of a female student.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Lonnie Randolph told reporters that he believes the officer should be charged and that race played a role in the arrest.

The officer is white. The girl is black.

Randolph says the group reached out to the U.S. attorney's office for an investigation and is happy to see that the Justice Department is looking into the arrest.

Videos of the arrest show a student refusing to leave her high school math class. A deputy was recorded flipping the girl backward in her desk and tossing her across the classroom floor.

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2 p.m.

South Carolina's education superintendent says she is "greatly concerned" by videos showing an officer tossing a female student out of her desk during an arrest.

Molly Spearman said in a statement Tuesday that she has talked to local, state and federal authorities about the violent confrontation between the student and a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School.

The FBI and Justice are investigating and Senior Deputy Ben Fields is on leave. Videos shot by students show Fields removing from her desk after she refuses to get up.

Spearman says school districts contract with hundreds of school resource officers who work to protect students. She says it's vital that students have respect for law enforcement, but also equally important that law enforcement ensure they do not abuse the power and trust school districts instill in them.

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1:40 p.m.

The Justice Department says it has opened a federal civil rights investigation after a South Carolina school resource officer was captured on video pulling a female high school student from her desk and dragging her across a classroom.

Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said the investigation will look into "the circumstances surrounding the arrest" and determine if a federal law was broken.

Officials said the confrontation at Spring Valley High School in Columbia occurred Monday after the student refused the officer's order to leave the classroom for being disruptive.

The officer was placed on leave after video surfaced.

The county sheriff's office had requested a federal investigation.

The federal probe will include the FBI, the Justice Department's civil rights division and the U.S. attorney's office in South Carolina.

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1:10 p.m.

The NAACP and a local school district are holding separate news conferences to address the media after a school resource officer was captured on video pulling a female high school student from her desk and dragging her across a classroom.

South Carolina NAACP officials say they will address reporters at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at their offices in downtown Columbia.

School district officials planned to address the media at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Senior Deputy Ben Fields has been placed on leave after the confrontation Monday at Spring Valley High School in Columbia. Officers say the student had refused Fields' order to leave a classroom for being disruptive.

Sheriff Leon Lott has asked federal authorities to investigate.

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12:10 p.m.

A student who was in a math class when another female student was dragged out of her chair by an officer says that she was arrested for screaming and praying out loud.

Niya Kenny told WLTX-TV that she couldn't believe that Student Resource Office Ben Fields used that much force on her classmate. Video shows Fields asking the student to move and then grabbing her while she is still seated and tossing her out of her desk and chair.

The 18-year-old Kenny says she started crying and screaming and someone said since she had so much to say, she would also be arrested.

She was charged with disturbing schools.

Her mother, Doris Kenny, told the TV station she was shocked and upset when she saw the video. She says she is not mad at her daughter because she was "brave enough to speak out against what was going on."

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11:40 a.m.

A student who says he took video of a school resource officer tossing a female student from her chair during class says the confrontation started when the girl took her phone out.

Tony Robinson Jr. told WLTX-TV that at administrator was called to the room about 10:30 a.m. Monday and pleaded with the girl to get out of her seat. She refused.

Robinson says the school resource officer, identified as Ben Fields, came into the classroom, shut the girl's computer and moved it to another desk. Robinson says he thought something was amiss and pulled out his phone and started recording.

The officer asked the female student to move and she says she hasn't done anything wrong. When she doesn't move, the officer grabs her and tosses her from the chair.

Robinson says it was a scary experience and there was no "justifiable reason" for the officer's actions.

Fields has been put on leave, and the sheriff has asked federal authorities to investigate.

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10:45 a.m.

The South Carolina school resource officer seen on video pulling a female high school student from her desk and dragging her across a classroom has previously been sued and accused of excessive force and targeting black suspects.

In 2013, a student expelled from Spring Valley High School, where Senior Deputy Ben Fields works, accused the deputy, who is white, of targeting black students after saying the expelled student was a gang member. That case is set to go to trial in January.

In 2010, federal court records show a jury sided with Fields after a black couple accused Fields of excessive force and battery during a 2005 noise complaint arrest in Columbia.

On Monday, Fields was seen on video pulling a black female student from her desk during class. Fields has been put on leave, and the sheriff has asked federal authorities to investigate. Authorities say race did not play a role in the incident.

In a third lawsuit, a woman who reported suspicion of child abuse accused Fields and another deputy of battery and violating her rights during a 2006 arrest. That case was dismissed in 2009.

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10:15 a.m.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson says a video that shows an officer pulling a female high school student from her desk and dragging her across a classroom is a "national disgrace."

Jackson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he thinks the officer involved should face charges and lose his job. The officer is white, and the student is black. Authorities have said they do not believe race was a factor, but Jackson says the incident represents a pattern of unfair behavior against blacks.

Officials said the incident occurred after the student at Spring Valley High School refused Senior Deputy Ben Fields' order to leave the classroom for being disruptive.

Jackson says he agrees with Sheriff Leon Lott that federal authorities should investigate. He says he is coming to Columbia on Tuesday to get more information.

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7:40 a.m.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has asked the FBI in South Carolina to investigate the confrontation between a school resource officer and a female high school student in Columbia.

Sheriff's Lt. Curtis Wilson said in a statement Tuesday that Lott has followed up the request with a letter to the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, Bill Nettles, asking for the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI to investigate.

A group called the Richland Two Black Parents Association also called for a federal investigation of the confrontation. The group said video has "revealed what many African American parents have experienced in this district for a very long time."

Wilson says the deputy is white and the student is black.

The video shows the deputy pulling the female student from her desk and dragging her across the classroom at Spring Valley High School on Monday after she refused to leave. The officer has been suspended.

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6:30 a.m.

A sheriff's deputy in South Carolina is on leave after a video showed him pulling a female high school student from her desk and dragging her across a classroom.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott was returning to Columbia on Tuesday from a conference in Chicago to get more information about the confrontation at Spring Valley High School.

Lt. Curtis Wilson says Senior Deputy Ben Fields has been placed on leave.

Officials said the incident occurred after the student refused Fields' order to leave the classroom for being disruptive.

School administrator Debbie Hamm said in a statement that the school district is "deeply concerned." Hamm said student safety is always the top priority and the district will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize student safety.