Richland County Senior Deputy Ben Fields, 34, the school resource officer from Spring Valley High School, was already heading to trial in January over a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a former student that claims that he “recklessly targets African-American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity.”
Ashton James Reese filed the federal complaint after he was expelled for “unlawful assembly of gang activity and assault and battery” in 2013. The former student was accused by Fields of participating in a “gang related” fight in a Walmart parking lot near the school.
The student maintains that he has never been in a gang and was targeted by Fields over the color of his skin.
Fields was also sued in federal court in 2007 over an incident during his time as a patrol deputy. The lawsuit accused Fields of violating the civil rights of army veteran Carlos Martin and his wife Tashiana Anita Martin.
In 2005 during an encounter over a noise complaint, Fields allegedly assaulted Carlos and unloaded an entire canister of pepper spray in his face before arresting both him and his wife, who had been trying to take photos of the encounter.
The officer allegedly deleted the photos off of her phone before arresting her and “made ridiculing and suggestive comments that he was going to take Plaintiff Tashiana Anita Martin to a Motel 6.”
The officer was cleared in that lawsuit, and Carlos Martin’s military career came to an end due to the arrest.
In addition to patrolling the halls as a resource officer, Fields was also the defensive line and strength coach for the Spring Valley High School football team. He has been banned from all schools in the district pending the outcome of an investigation into Monday’s incident.
He is now on administrative duty at the Sheriff’s department.
The Columbia FBI Field Office, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina and the Civil Rights Division have launched a civil rights investigation regarding his violence toward the student.
In a news conference on Tuesday, the NAACP announced that they are not calling this a racial issue until all evidence is presented.