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No Criminal Charges For White S.C Deputy Who Flipped Desk, Tossed Black Student

There will be no criminal charges brought against a former South Carolina sheriff's deputy at the center of a controversial classroom altercation that included the officer flipping a female student's desk backwards and tossing her across the classroom.

According to a 12-page report issued Friday by Solicitor Dan Johnson, "There is not sufficient probable cause to warrant criminal charges." Johnson added that while he did not think the officer's conduct rose "to the level of criminal conduct, the manner in which he performed his duties on October 26, 2015 is of great concern to me."

As we reported last October, the incident involved Benjamin Fields, who is white and at the time was a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C. He was called into a classroom where a student, who is black, was said to be causing a disturbance.

Several students in the classroom at the time recorded the confrontation and posted the videos on social media, where they went viral and sparked widespread outrage.

Fields was fired a few days after the incident.

The solicitor's report shed more light on how the events in the classroom unfolded on the morning of the incident.

During a morning Algebra I class, the unnamed student involved in the confrontation was told by her teacher to put away a cellphone and to log off her personal email during class. The student was then asked several times to leave the classroom. When she refused, then-officer Fields was summoned, according to the report.

Fields arrived to the classroom and asked the student to come with him. The report states Fields gave "several more verbal directives" before informing the student "she was under arrest for disturbing school and attempted to place her under arrest." That according to the report, is when the altercation unfolded and portions of it were later uploaded to the Internet.

Johnson, the solicitor, spoke with 15 witnesses; Fields, who provided a statement through his attorney; the student involved in the confrontation; and the student's guardian.

Some witnesses said that Fields used the appropriate amount of force to remove the student from the classroom. One, identified as "Witness Four," said they "did not think Fields threw the desk down, rather that it just fell over."

Another, identified in the report as "Witness Five," said the officer grabbed the student's jacket to try to get the student out of the desk. The report goes on to say the student attempted to push Fields back with her arm. That's when, according to "Witness Five," that "Fields grabbed the student and threw her across the floor."

That same witness added, had the student left the algebra class, "none of this would have ever happened."

The full report is below:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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