Authorities in South Carolina say a “third video” taken of a school resource officer grabbing a student by the neck before slamming her to the ground shows the student punching the deputy during the confrontation.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said in a press conference Tuesday that the video recorded by another student in the classroom “showed her striking and punching at the officer” as Senior Deputy Ben Fields attempted to remove the girl from the classroom.
“When the officer puts his hands on her initially, she reaches up and she pops the officer with her fist,” Lott told reporters, adding that the student’s behavior doesn’t justify what happened after.
“Just because she was wrong in what she was doing doesn’t make what he was doing completely right also.”
Fields, who was initially on administrative leave, was fired late Wednesday morning, Sheriff Lott announced late Wednesday morning.
READ MORE: South Carolina officer fired after violent classroom arrest
The incident at Spring Valley High School Monday has sparked outrage with from school, police and public officials across the U.S.
The FBI and the Department of Justice announced Tuesday they would open a civil rights investigation into the confrontation.
Lott told reporters Tuesday the internal investigation could be completed by Wednesday. Fields was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
“I wanted to throw up,” Lott said after viewing the videos. “This makes you sick to your stomach when you see that initial video. But that’s just a snapshot.”
Two videos show Fields standing over a student, seated at her desk. He puts his arm around her neck and then yanks her backward tipping the desk over as the student falls to the ground. The uniformed officer then tosses the girl to the front of the classroom where she slides several feet across the floor. Fields is white and the student is black.
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Parents in Columbia, S.C. say the violent arrest is another example of simmering racial tension.
“The unfortunate actions of this police officer have revealed what many African American parents have experienced in this district for a very long time,” said the Richland Two Black Parents Association said in a statement. “This is just another example of why we must have an independent assessment from various parties including the Department of Justice to examine policies and practices in the District. We applaud the federal government’s inquiry.”
Lott said Tuesday he did not know if race played a factor in the confrontation and said Fields had been dating an African-American woman for “some time.”
Debbie Hamm, superintendent of Richland School District 2, said she was “deeply concerned” by the confrontation and called it “one of the most upsetting incidents I’ve ever experienced” in her nearly 40 years working as an educator.