Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott will announce the results of an internal investigation into the actions by one of his officers at Spring Valley High School that's caused a national uproar.
Lott is scheduled to speak at 12 p.m. Wednesday at the sheriff's department headquarters. UPDATE: Sheriff Lott Fires Deputy - Click Here for Details
Lott said late Tuesday afternoon that an internal investigation was underway to review the actions of Deputy Ben Fields, a school resource officer at Spring Valley. Lott said his officers will look only at whether Fields acted properly under department protocols. Any possible criminal investigation will be handled by federal and state agencies.
"We don't expect this to draw out," Lott said.
Lott said the findings would allow him to determine if Fields will continue working for the agency.
Lott had been in Chicago for a law enforcement conference when the incident, which has made national news, happened. He cut short the trip and flew back to the area early Tuesday morning to deal with the matter personally.He said just like everyone else, he was appalled by the first video that was released.
"I wanted to throw up, it makes you sick to your stomach," he said. "You can't watch the video without having those feelings."
The incident happened inside a math class at the school around 10:30 a.m. Monday. According to Lott, the student was supposed to be working on a project using her computer, but was instead had her cell phone out, perhaps to text. Lott said the girl didn't comply when her teacher told her multiple times to put away the device. An administrator then came to the class, Lott said, and she continued to refuse to obey their requests. Fields was then called to the room to remove her from the room.
Videos that surfaced online captured part of what happened next. Fields can be heard telling the student to get up. A few moments later, he grabs the student as she was in her seat, causing the girl and the chair to flip over onto the floor. Fields can then be seen dragging the girl for several feet and restraining her on the ground.
Related Coverage:Student Who Videotaped Incident Says He Was 'Afraid'
Lott said he was told the girl didn't sustain injuries.
The student was charged with disturbing schools and was given over to her parents. Another student in the classroom, 18-year-old Niya Kenny, was also charged with disturbing schools but was booked at the local jail. She was released on bond hours later. Related Coverage:Student Arrested Says She was Standing Up for Classmate
Lott said the girl was in the wrong for not complying with her school officials. He also said a third video has shown that the girl struck the officer as he was attempting to remove her. But Lott said his probe won't focus on her actions--only the officers.
"What she did is not what I'm looking at," Lott said.
To fend off any concerns that an internal probe might be a conflict of interest, Lott requested that federal authorities investigate what happened. By midday Tuesday, the FBI and U.S. Attorneys office obliged, saying they'd launch a civil rights probe into the matter. "I don't want anybody in Richland County or anywhere in the world to say that this is not being handled properly." Related Coverage:Feds Open Civil Rights Investigation
The student is black, while the officer is white, but Lott said despite some suggestions from the public, he doesn't think race is a factor.
"He's never expressed that in the past, we've never seen that," Lott said. The sheriff also pointed out that the officer dates an African-American woman.
Lott oversees a group of 87 school resource officers, who he said are instructors and offer guidance in schools. Fields also works as an assistant coach with the football team.
His officers do receive training in how to de-escalate a situation using only words, but he said often times his officers are put in difficult predicaments, where they are in charge of controlling students when teachers and administrators can't.
"Should the officer have been called to get involved?" Lott said. "Is it proper to call an SRO in to discipline a child?"
Just before Lott spoke, Richland School District Two officials said they'd review their policies about when it's appropriate for an officer to respond to a class. They also said they wanted to work with the department to improve training for officers. Related Coverage:Richland Two Leaders Say Incident is 'Unforgivable'
Dr. Debbie Hamm, the district's superintendent, said she's worked in the school system for four decades, and said it's one of the most upsetting incidents she's seen.
"It was outrageous and unforgivable and it does not represent what this district stands for," Hamm said.
"There is absolutely no place in this district for what happened yesterday," said Richland School District Two Board Chairman Jim Manning. "Our tolerance for it is zero."
SC NAACP Chairman Dr. Lonnie Randolph said his office was withholding making sweeping statements about what happened until they hear how law enforcement is going to respond. Related Coverage:NAACP Waiting to See How Law Enforcement Responds