Federal U.S. officials have opened a civil rights investigation after a video Monday filmed inside a South Carolina classroom showed a school police officer grabbing an African-American student around the neck, flipping her backwards and then throwing her across the classroom floor.
“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,” FBI Special Agent in Charge David Thomas said Tuesday. “The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence in order to determine whether a federal law was violated.”
Videos of the incident were shot by students in the classroom and were picked up by international news outlets Monday evening sparking outrage and more debate around police interactions with minority communities.
READ MORE: Camera catches South Carolina police officer throwing student from desk
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott had previously asked both the FBI and the DOJ to conduct separate investigations into the incident at Spring Valley High School in Columbia.
WATCH: A new angle of the confrontation between a South Carolina high school student and a school resource officer has surfaced.
Lott confirmed the FBI will be the lead agency in the investigation.
“We do not want any issues with the community or those involved having questions concerning conflicts of interest in this investigation,” Lott said in a statement Tuesday. “A complete and thorough investigation is what we both want, as well as the public.”
Richland School District officials placed the officer who appears in the video, identified by local media as Ben Fields, on administrative leave. The police officer who appears in the video is white, while the student is black.
WATCH: South Carolina officer throws student from desk, drags across floor
The video shows Fields asking the girl to stand up. When she refuses the officer can be heard saying, “I’m going to get you up.”
As the girl remains seated, the officer then wraps a forearm around her neck and tips the desk backward until she falls onto the floor. The officer then tosses the girl several feet across the floor to the front of the classroom where Fields ordered her hands behind her back and applied handcuffs.
Local CBS-affiliate WLTX obtained a second video that captured more audio of the incident and reactions from the students in the classroom.
Tony Robinson Jr., who made the recording, told WLTX the students in the classroom were scared for their lives.
WATCH: ‘We were all scared’: Student who witnessed incident between South Carolina officer, classmate discusses event
“I’ve never seen anything so nasty-looking, so sick to the point that you know, other students are turning away, don’t know what to do, and are just scared for their lives,” said Tony Robinson Jr, who made the recording.
“That’s supposed to be somebody that’s going to protect us. Not somebody that we need to be scared off, or afraid.”
The incident allegedly began when the student refused to put away her cellphone after repeatedly being asked by a teacher.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said the girl and a male student were arrested after the confrontation, according a South Carolina newspaper The State. They were charged with disturbing the peace, and the girl was released to the custody of her parents, according to WLTX.
The video of the confrontation has sparked widespread outrage over what is being perceived as another example of excessive use of force by police.
“There is no justification whatsoever for treating a child like this,” said Victoria Middleton, of the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement. “Regardless of the reason for the officer’s actions, such egregious use of force — against young people who are sitting in their classrooms — is outrageous.
“School should be a place to learn and grow, not a place to be brutalized.”
Superintendent of Richland County School District Two, Debbie Hamm, said in a statement that officials were “deeply concerned” about the confrontation.
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“Upon learning of the incident, school and district administrators began an investigation,” she said. “We are working closely and in full cooperation with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.”
Videos of the confrontation are being compared to a cellphone video over the summer in McKinney, Texas, that quickly went viral showing a white officer pulling a gun on black students at a pool party and dragging one woman to the floor.
Reaction to the incident in South Carolina has drawn criticism from several people online including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders who are seeking the Democratic nomination.
What could justify treating a child like this? Nothing. Every child should be safe in our classrooms. https://t.co/FlQ6pNTfQk
— Clay Middleton (@claynmiddleton) October 27, 2015
Welcome to the school-to-prison pipeline! This unjust criminalization of our youth has to end. #AssaultatSpringValleyHigh
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 27, 2015
The police officer should be arrested, charged and sued. #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh #BlackLittleGirlsLivesMatter pic.twitter老域名购买/Aue6nlyhCR
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) October 27, 2015
How long will it take for Officer Fields to say that he “feared for his life,” which caused him to assault her? #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh
— deray mckesson (@deray) October 26, 2015
Incidents like the #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh happen every day. And the criminalization begins long before the physical violence.
— wikipedia brown (@eveewing) October 27, 2015
It appears #SandraBland‘s “offense” was not putting out her cigarette. The girl at #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh? Not putting away her phone.
— April (@ReignOfApril) October 27, 2015
If you watch the #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh video and wonder why young people defy authority – it’s because THIS is the authority they see.
— Jeff Cannata (@jeffcannata) October 27, 2015
Police officers have no more right than the rest of us to physically attack someone because they’re mad. #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) October 27, 2015
Heart breaking. Ridiculous. #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) October 27, 2015