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FBI to investigate incident at Spring Valley

Spring Valley incident.jpg

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) -- Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has asked the FBI in South Carolina to investigate the confrontation between a school resource officer and a female high school student in Columbia.

The FBI fulfilled Lott's request Tuesday afternoon.

"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. The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence in order to determine whether a federal law was violated. As this is an ongoing investigation, per Department of Justice policy we are unable to comment further at this time," said FBI special agent David A. Thomas.

Sheriff Lott said in a statement that the FBI will best serve as the lead agency in this investigation. Lott said SLED will assist in the investigation.

"A complete and thorough investigation is what we both want as well as the public," added Lott.

Sheriff's Lt. Curtis Wilson said in a statement Tuesday that Lott has followed up the request with a letter to the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, Bill Nettles, asking for the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI to investigate.

A group called the Richland Two Black Parents Association also called for a federal investigation of the confrontation. The group said video has "revealed what many African American parents have experienced in this district for a very long time."

The video shows the deputy pulling the female student from her desk and dragging her across the classroom at Spring Valley High School on Monday after she refused to leave. The officer has been suspended.

The school resource officer seen on video has previously been sued and accused of excessive force and targeting black suspects.

In 2013, a student expelled from Spring Valley High School, where Senior Deputy Ben Fields works, accused the deputy, who is white, of targeting black students after saying the expelled student was a gang member. That case is set to go to trial in January.

In 2010, federal court records show a jury sided with Fields after a black couple accused Fields of excessive force and battery during a 2005 noise complaint arrest in Columbia.

In a third lawsuit, a woman who reported suspicion of child abuse accused Fields and another deputy of battery and violating her rights during a 2006 arrest. That case was dismissed in 2009.

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