As the details emerge about the violent, videotaped assault of a female student at Spring Valley High in Columbia, S.C., a deeper look into the background of Richland County Senior Deputy Ben Fields is underway.
What has been revealed is that Fields has been sued twice in federal court, with a one case going to jury trial at the top of next year.
Fields was seen on a now-viral video of he confronting the unnamed female student and slamming her to the ground after she refused to listen to his barked orders. Fields then restrains the girl, and threatens to arrest another teen who tried to step in and help the girl. This aggressive display shown by Fields is not a new occurrence, dating back to the officer’s earlier days on the force.
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Fields was first sued in federal court in 2007 from his time as a patrol deputy in 2005. A jury eventually ruled in Fields’ favor.
In that lawsuit, Fields was accused of violating the civil rights of a man and woman at an apartment complex in Columbia. The plaintiff, Carlos Martin, says was driving his car near his home and saw a police officer driving his cruiser in the parking lot. He said he nodded to the officer “as a friendly gesture and greeting.”
Martin said shortly after he parked his car and was walking to his apartment. He says he then heard the officer, later identified as Fields, running toward him calling, “Hey you.” Fields asked for Martin’s license and registration and asked if he was the cause of excessive noise that a resident had complained about. Martin told Fields he wasn’t the source and had just got home from work.
According to the lawsuit, Fields later seized a cell phone from Martin’s wife, Tashiana Anita Martin, who recorded the incident on video and never returned to her. He also arrested her. The charges against both were later dropped when the prosecution failed to show up for court.
In the second, still-pending lawsuit, Fields accused a Black high school student of being a gang member although he no verifiable proof of such a connection:
The student, Ashton James Reese, was expelled from the high school for “unlawful assembly of gang activity and assault and battery,” in 2013. He was accused of participating in a “gang related” fight in a Walmart parking lot near the school.
Fields, who did not respond to the fight, led the investigation, and described it as a “huge gang fight,” that was an attempt to unite three gangs at the school. He said Reese was identified as being in the video and being part of a gang. But Reese denies he is a gang member, according to the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, Reese’s attorneys claim Fields, “recklessly targets African-American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity.”
Martin, an Army veteran, has released photos of Fields arresting him, sharing more details of his encounter with the officer back in 2005 with the New York Daily News.
So important. A Black army veteran recalling when Officer Ben Fields brutally assaulted him. Chilling. https://t.co/sj5R0guGRU
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 27, 2015
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