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Feds to Probe Use of Force in US Student's Arrest

  • VOA News

An image from video shows Spring Valley High School (Columbia, S.C., student resource officer Ben Fields, a senior deputy with the Richland County police department, using force to remove a female student from a classroom, Oct. 26, 2015.

An image from video shows Spring Valley High School (Columbia, S.C., student resource officer Ben Fields, a senior deputy with the Richland County police department, using force to remove a female student from a classroom, Oct. 26, 2015.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation agreed Tuesday to investigate the arrest of a South Carolina high school student Tuesday, a day after a video showed an officer throwing the girl to the floor and tossing her across the classroom.

"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 in a statement Tuesday.

The decision came hours after a spokesman for Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said he had asked the two government agencies to launch independent investigations of the incident, which comes amid heightened scrutiny of U.S. police about the use of force, particularly against minorities.

The incident occurred Monday at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina.

WATCH: Video of South Carolina high school student's arrest

The student had twice been asked to leave the classroom but had refused. Officer Ben Fields was called to remove the student.

In the video, Fields can be heard asking the girl to stand up. When she remains seated, he wraps a forearm around her neck, then tips the desk backward until she falls onto the floor. From there, he tosses her several feet across the floor and then handcuffs her.

Another student in the math class, who said he took video of the incident, said the confrontation started when the girl took her phone out in class.

Officer on leave

Fields has been placed on leave, police spokesman Lieutenant Curtis Wilson said Tuesday.

No one was hurt in Monday's confrontation, officials said.

Richland County Sheriff's Department Officer Senior Deputy Ben Fields, left, is pictured with Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School Principal Karen Beaman after receiving Culture of Excellence Award, in Columbia, S.C., Nov. 12, 2014.

Richland County Sheriff's Department Officer Senior Deputy Ben Fields, left, is pictured with Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School Principal Karen Beaman after receiving Culture of Excellence Award, in Columbia, S.C., Nov. 12, 2014.

The actions by Fields, who is white, against the student, who is black, drew swift condemnation after the videos, captured on cellphones by several students, were picked up by media outlets and posted on social media.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Tuesday called the video a "national disgrace," adding he thinks the officer should face charges and lose his job.

'Egregious use of force'

The images captured an "egregious use of force" against the student, ACLU of South Carolina Executive Director Victoria Middleton said Tuesday.

Fields, who last year received a Culture of Excellence Award at an elementary school in Columbia, has twice before been sued and accused of excessive force and targeting black suspects.

Also Tuesday, President Barack Obama was scheduled to speak to a major conference of police chiefs in Chicago.

The U.S. police community is grappling with public outrage over the deaths of black men and women at the hands of police in such places as Ferguson, Missouri; New York, Texas and elsewhere.

The U.S. Justice Department is also expected to release a report on ambush attacks of police.

Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.

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