The South Carolina sheriff’s deputy and school resource officer seen on video throwing a female student across a classroom was involved in another incident in 2005 in which the victim says the officer snapped after he called him "dude," adding that the encounter led to his divorce and discharge from the military.
In a New York Daily News exclusive, Carlos Martin, a 36-year-old Army veteran, says that as soon as he saw the 15-second video clip that has now gone viral of Sheriff's Deputy Ben Fields involved in an incident Monday with a female student at Columbia, S.C.’s Spring Valley High School, he knew he had seen the man before.
"I recognized him on the spot. I remembered how big he was," Martin said.
The Daily News reports that on Oct. 24, 2005, Fields, who was a rookie officer with the Richland County (S.C.) Sheriff's Department at the time, was dispatched to an apartment complex on a noise complaint. When the officer arrived, he encountered Martin, who was reportedly playing music loudly. Martin told the News that he had just moved to the area and had returned home from his job at Moncrief Army Community Hospital at Fort Jackson, S.C. Martin, a former medic in the Army, was still in uniform when he says the officer "snapped" after he called him "dude," slamming Martin to the ground and then unloading an entire can of pepper spray on him.
Martin told the Daily News that Army training had exposed him to pepper spray and that, as such, he didn't respond to the toxic chemicals.
"He became even more violent because I didn't react like most people would," Martin told the News.
According to Martin, his wife at the time witnessed the encounter and ran to capture the incident on her cellphone. Martin says the officer told his partner to "get her black ass" and that the officer deleted photos from her cellphone.
"I'm watching my wife get beat up in front of me, and there's nothing I can do about it," Martin said.
Martin and his now-former wife, Tashiana Rogers, were both arrested, but the Daily News notes that the criminal charges were dropped. The couple filed a lawsuit against the officer that took some four years to go to trial. During that time, Martin says, the weight of the incident took a toll on his marriage and the couple split. Martin also says that after his arrest, the military began looking at him as a criminal and, he believes, blackballed him.
At the time of the incident, Martin had been active duty in the Army for 10 years and married for three.
According to the Daily News, "the lawsuit was later dismissed because there had been issues with proving excessive force, his criminal trial lawyer, John Mobley," said.
Rogers told the Daily News that she believes that if the officer had been disciplined for his actions in the 2005 incident, it could have prevented the Spring Valley High School encounter.
"I felt like if he had felt the consequences from 2005, this wouldn't happen today," she told the Daily News.
CNN reports that regarding the classroom incident Monday, Fields has been taken out of the school and placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.