Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The attorney representing a fired Richland County deputy says his client was justified in forcibly removing a student from a Spring Valley High classroom last fall, and he wants the sheriff's department to reinstate the officer.
Scott Hayes issued a statement by letter Friday about his client, Ben Fields. It comes a week after Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson said there would be no criminal charges against Fields in connection with the incident.
"There was clearly a rush to judgement by the public and public officials immediately following the incident," Hayes wrote.
In October of last year, Fields was working as a school resource officer at Spring Valley when he was called to a class after a student refused to comply with a teacher's requests. When he got to the room, Fields asked the girl to get out of her seat, and she didn't. He then removed her from the chair, and could be seen on video dragging her several feet before subduing her.
Videos taken of the incident by others in the class were then circulated on social media, leading to a national firestorm of controversy. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott fired Fields days later, saying he violated department procedure.
Hayes, however, says the officer was doing his job by trying to arrest a student who was violating South Carolina's disturbing schools law.
"The student then outwardly resisted Mr. Fields' initial attempt to help her out of her seat," the letter states. "At that time, Mr. Fields made a second attempt to help her out of her seat, to which the student responded by punching Mr. Fields in his face, thereby escalating her level of resistance."
Hayes says Fields used the correct techniques to bring the student under arrest.
"There is not an articulable policy violation or legal reason that caused Mr. Fields to be terminated by the Richland County Sheriff's Department or Richland School District Two, and he should be reinstated as a deputy sheriff."
Despite the request, Lott told the Associated Press he will not re-hire Field.
In declining to file charges against Fields, Johnson said last week that he did not think Fields' actions were criminal, but did agree with the decision to fire the deputy.
Johnson also dismissed the disturbing schools charge against the student Fields removed and another student who filmed the encounter and spoke out against Fields at the time.