Richland County, S.C., Sheriff Leon Lott has asked for federal help since placing Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Fields on leave for tossing a female high school student to the floor at a school in Columbia, S.C.
On Tuesday, Lott got it, with the Associated Press reoprting that the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have opened a civil rights probe into the incident, which took place at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., and was captured on video. The video footage appears to show Fields flipping a student from her chair and tossing her to the floor before placing her under arrest.
Also Tuesday, Columbia Mayor Stephen Benjamin issued a scathing statement, noting his outrage about what he saw in the video. Read the mayor's statement below:
I want to respond publicly to the incredibly disturbing video involving a Richland County deputy sheriff and a Spring Valley High School student being viewed around the world.
As mayor, a concerned citizen and, most importantly, as the father of two beautiful, school-age daughters, I was simply outraged.
First, I need to clarify that Deputy Fields, the officer involved in this incident does not work for the city of Columbia.
Though this incident involved a Richland County sheriff’s deputy and not an officer with the Columbia Police Department, we still cannot and will not accept this kind of behavior from any law-enforcement officer, and I firmly believe that we need an independent investigation to get to the bottom of this incident and see that justice is done.
We have to understand that this kind of incident does real damage to all the progress we’ve made over the past year with the city of Columbia’s Justice for All [pdf] reforms and it must be dealt with swiftly, transparently and decisively.
I have spoken with Sheriff Lott to express my concerns. He has assured me that he understands the gravity of this matter and that it will be dealt with promptly.
It is during these painful moments in our nation that we must individually and as a community recommit ourselves to promoting real reforms that ensure that justice, accountability and transparency are not mere rhetoric, but the hallmarks of every law-enforcement agency in our country. We should not rest until this is truly realized.
Read more at U.S. News & World Report.