The Latest: Officer's attorney says student arrest justified

AP News
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Posted: Oct 28, 2015 6:26 PM

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):

6:20 p.m.

An attorney for the deputy who was fired for throwing a student across a classroom during an arrest says the officer's actions were justified and lawful.

Attorney Scott Hayes said in a statement released to local media Wednesday that Senior Deputy Ben Fields' actions were carried out professionally and that he was performing his job duties legally.

Fields was fired earlier in the day by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. Video of Fields' arrest of a 16-year-old student shows him flipping her backward in her desk and then dragging her across the floor.

The statement says Fields is not making any more comments because the matter is under federal investigation.

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5:10 p.m.

The attorney for a 16-year-old student who was thrown across a classroom during an arrest says the officer should be jailed for his actions.

Attorney Todd Rutherford said Wednesday that the girl went to the hospital Monday night and has a cast on her arm and has complained of neck, back and psychological injuries.

Authorities say the student was being disruptive in class and wouldn't go to the office after she was caught using her phone in class. After the officer was called to the classroom, the student still wouldn't get up, and the deputy threw her backward in her desk and dragged her across the classroom.

Rutherford said if an officer had done that to an animal, he would be in jail. He also says the officer should not have been called to the classroom in the first place.

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4 p.m.

The superintendent who oversees the school where a student was thrown across a classroom during an arrest says the district is working closely with the sheriff's department and state and federal agencies to examine what happened.

Richland School District 2 Superintendent Dr. Debbie Hamm said in a statement Wednesday that officials "know important work is ahead of us as we thoughtfully and carefully review" what transpired.

Hamm issued the statement after Sheriff Leon Lott fired a Deputy Ben Fields for not following training and procedures during the arrest of a student. The disruptive student wouldn't leave the classroom when told and Fields threw her backward and across the floor when trying to arrest her. Video of the arrest stirred outrage after it was posted online.

The superintendent says the goal is to de-escalate situations through problem-solving and communication techniques, while avoiding confrontations.

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12:30 p.m.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says he spoke with the officer that he fired for throwing a student across a classroom during an arrest and that the deputy is sorry the whole situation occurred.

Lott was asked Wednesday at a news conference whether Senior Deputy Ben Fields expressed remorse for his actions and Lott said "I don't know if the word is remorse." He went on to say it was not Fields' intent to do anything to discredit the sheriff's department.

Fields has not returned messages for comment.

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12:10 p.m.

A South Carolina sheriff says he has fired a school officer after video showed him flipping a teen backward out of her desk and tossing her across a classroom.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Wednesday that Senior Deputy Ben Fields has been fired. He had been a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School.

Lott says the maneuver that Fields used on the student was not based on training or acceptable procedure.

Lott has said the girl was uninjured aside from a rug burn. However, the girl's attorney, Todd Rutherford, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she "has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries." He says she also has a bandage on her forehead because of the rug burn.

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9:30 a.m.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott is expected to announce whether he will fire a South Carolina deputy who was recorded on cellphone video tossing a teen from her desk and throwing her across the room at a Columbia high school.

Lott is scheduled to meet with reporters at noon Wednesday to discuss the case involving Master Deputy Ben Fields, a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School. Lott suspended Fields after the teen's arrest was recorded by students.

The girl's lawyer, Todd Rutherford, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday that the student suffered arm, neck, back and head injuries during the confrontation.

Authorities had initially said the girl suffered no injuries other than a rug burn.

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7:40 a.m.

The lawyer for a teen who was flipped out of her desk and tossed across the room by a school resource officer in South Carolina says his client was injured in the incident.

Todd Rutherford told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday that the teen has a cast on her arm and suffered neck and back injuries in the confrontation at Spring Valley High School in Columbia on Monday. Rutherford also said the girl suffered a rug burn on her forehead.

Sheriff Leon Lott had said Tuesday that the girl "may have had a rug burn" but otherwise was not injured. Lott is considering whether to fire Senior Deputy Ben Fields because of the confrontation recorded by several students using cellphones.

Rutherford said his client may have struck fields as she reacted to being grabbed by the neck.

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4:30 a.m.

A South Carolina sheriff's deputy who flipped a student backward in her desk and tossed her across the floor for refusing to leave math class could learn as soon as Wednesday whether he will be fired.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said once his agency's internal investigation is completed, he will make a decision about whether to keep Senior Deputy Ben Fields on the force.

The videos of the confrontation between a white officer and black girl stirred such outrage that Lott called the FBI and Justice Department for help. A criminal investigation is underway, but the probe generally takes more time.