But She Hit Him …
The fig leaf Ben Fields' apologists are clinging to
“She hit him.” So that’s the justification, the fig leaf that the apologists for Richland County Deputy Ben Fields—apparently soon to be former deputy—will cling to. Sheriff Leon Lott mentioned it in his news conference yesterday, and it quickly made prominent news outlets’ headlines.
The revelation, he said, sprang from a “third video” of the incident Monday at Spring Valley High School in Columbia—the video that presumably would reveal that Fields, the school football team’s strength and conditioning coach and an avid weightlifter, was justified in grabbing a small, 16-year-old female high school student, placing her in a headlock, and throwing her across a classroom for being petulant.
The video below clearly shows what the student did to the officer trying to subdue her. It comes after the initial headlock—as Fields is yanking the student’s head back, dragging the desk with her, in his attempt to pry the student out of it—but before the officer grabs her by the wrists and slings her toward the front of the room.
“When the officer puts his hands on her initially,” Lott said yesterday, “she reaches up and she pops the officer with her fist.” The blow she strikes appears to have generated enough force to, perhaps, kill a mosquito. (It remains unclear whether Fields sought medical attention afterwards.)
Lott has caught deserved criticism for some of his odder pronouncements yesterday, including the tone-deaf and irrelevant—not to mention invasive—observation that Fields had been dating a black woman “for some time.” (The sheriff also offered this strangely cavalier remark, apparently referring to a carpet burn, in response to a question about how badly the student was hurt: “She may have a ‘roadrunner’ or something like that, but I don’t think she’s injured.”) Even so, Lott’s overall remarks weren’t as insensitive as those. After he saw the initial video, he said, “I wanted to throw up,” and he was “shocked and disturbed … as a citizen and as a parent of a seventh-grade daughter.”
But whether he intended to or not, Lott fed an exculpatory narrative hungry for any shred of justification. We’re familiar with this by now. “After watching and re-watching the incident, I keep coming to the same conclusion: This is what happens when a person resists a lawful order from a police officer to move,” lawyer, military veteran, and National Review Online contributor David French wrote last night:
The arrested student at Spring Valley High School should have left her seat when her teacher demanded that she leave. She should have left when the administrator made the same demand. She should have left when Fields made his first, polite requests. She had no right to stay. She had no right to end classroom instruction with her defiance. Fields was right to move her, and he did so without hurting her. The fact that the incident didn’t look good on camera doesn’t make his actions wrong. Unless additional evidence emerges, the Spring Valley video is going viral for all the wrong reasons.
In other words – to use a police cliché – move along. There’s truly not much to see here.