Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has said that he found the videos of Deputy Ben Fields‘ dragging a student from her desk “disturbing.” However, he said in a press conference that he wasn’t sure that race was a factor and mentioned that Fields is dating a black woman, MSNBC reported. His statements sparked public outrage. Meanwhile, he asked the FBI for help in investigating the situation and has fired Fields for violating department standards.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Sheriff Lott Said That He Didn’t Think Race Was Involved And Mentioned that Fields Had Dated a Black Woman
Lott has said that he isn’t sure race was a factor in what happened in the video, adding during a press conference that Fields has been dating an African American woman for quite some time, MSNBC reported.
Some people are outraged by that statement, saying it shouldn’t be a factor at all:
Deputy Ben Fields is under investigation after online videos showed him violently throwing a high school student out of her desk and dragging her across the room during class at Spring Valley High School. The Sheriff’s Department and the Richland County School District 2 are investigating. Fields was called into the classroom after the student refused to get off her cell phone and then wouldn’t leave her desk when an administrator asked. Fields, a senior school resource officer, then dragged her out of the desk after she refused his request. You can watch the videos of what happened here.
At first, Fields was suspended without pay for the duration of the investigation. But Wednesday morning, Lott announced that he was firing Fields because an internal investigation showed that the officer had violated department standards, The New York Times reported. Lott added that Fields is sorry about everything that happened.
2. After Watching the Video, Lott Said He Wanted to Throw Up And This Concerns Him Not Just as a Sheriff, But as a Parent
After he saw the videos of Fields’ manhandling the student, whose name has not been released, Lott said that he wanted to throw up, Newsweek reported. He said that the student’s actions were wrong, but the investigation will determine if her actions met the level of Ben Fields’ response. He said that the videos concern him not just as a sheriff, but also as a parent. Lott is married and has four daughters. One of his daughters attends middle school, and these actions are especially concerning to him as a father, WLTX reported.
3. He Said the Third Video Shows the Student Hitting the Cop, And He’s Asked the FBI to Lead an Investigation
During a press conference, Lott stated that the third video released of Fields’ attack on the high school student shows that she hit the officer too, MSNBC reported.
He said the video shows her hitting fields with her fists and striking him more than once, The New York Times reported. However, some people are crying foul at this statement and aren’t sure where in the video the student hit the officer. If you want to see, what has been referred to as the third video is here:
Meanwhile, Lott has asked the FBI to help with the investigation. He called Dave Thomas, the Special Agent in charge of the FBI for South Carolina, and asked for an independent investigation, WLTX reported. He said his agency will cooperate completely with the FBI. Since receiving the request, the FBI has launched a civil rights investigation into the situation, Yahoo News reported.
4. Lott Has Been With the Richland County Sheriff’s Department Since 1975
Lott has been with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department since 1975. He joined as a patrol officer, according to the department’s website, and held various positions before becoming sheriff, including criminal investigator, narcotics agent, and watch commander. In 1993 he was police chief in St Matthews, South Carolina. In 1996, he was elected Sheriff of Richland County. In addition to his work with the county, Lott is active in many community organizations and activities. He and his family attend First Baptist Church of Columbia.
5. Lott Landed in Trouble with the Federal Government After Trading Two Federal Planes That Weren’t Technically His
Lott has been in trouble with the federal government before. Earlier this year, WISTV reported that Lott had traded two planes from the sheriff’s department that technically belonged to the federal government, causing the entire Richland County Sheriff’s Department to be suspended from a military surplus program. The department might lose millions of dollars because of the mistake. The program involves the U.S. Defense Department loaning out surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies. In 2013, the Department of Defense loaned two C-23 Sherpa aircrafts to the department. The C-23s can fly at higher altitudes and for longer distances than helicopters. After receiving them, Lott traded them with Win Win Aviation for a Cessna Stationair, saying the Cessna was better for drug surveillance missions and interdiction. The problem, WISTV reported, was that Lott didn’t actually own the C-23s so they weren’t his to trade in the first place. Win Win sued when asked to return the plans, saying it made more than a million in modifications and has contracts in place for their use. The whole thing may be settled out of court.