Officer at center of violent S.C. classroom arrest could lose job

The South Carolina Sheriff's Deputy captured on video forcefully removing a student from class could lose his job as the Richland County Sheriff is expected to announce whether Ben Fields will remain on the force, reports CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca.

The Justice Department has launched an investigation of the incident.

Cell phone videos captured the moment when the deputy grabs and drags the student from her desk. He later places her under arrest.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says one of the videos shows the student striking the officer after he put his hands on her, but he did not say that justified the actions of Deputy Fields.

"Even though she refused to abide by the directions of the teacher, the school administrator, and also the verbal command of our deputy -- I'm looking at what our deputy did," said Lott.

Classmates of the student say the confrontation began when a teacher and school administrator repeatedly asked her to put away her cell phone during class.

One student -- who asked that his identity be concealed -- says other kids in the class tried to defuse the situation.

"She was even told by the students to just get up and leave when the administrator came in," the student said.

Fields was then then called to remove the student.

"You're going to come with me or I'm gonna make you," Fields tells the student in the video. "Put you hands behind your back. Give me your hands, give me your hands."

Fields' actions have outraged many in the community, including parents, about a dozen of whom voiced their opinions at a Tuesday night school district board meeting.

"See you guys are responsible for these people. You need to fire this guy," said parent Craig Cornwell.

Richland School District Two Superintendent Debbie Hamm admits that "clearly something did not go right," calling it the most upsetting incident she has seen in her 40 years with the district.

"We will be working with the Richland County Sheriff's Office to clarify our expectations about screening and training for school resource officers," said Hamm.

But one parent had a slightly different reaction.

"I saw his face and my first thought was 'Oh my god, that's the same guy,'" said Wendy Johnson, who says her autistic son was in a physical struggle with Fields when he was a freshman.

Photos she took of her son after the altercation reveal his shirt torn and marks on his arms and shoulder.

"The people that are supposed to be protecting my children, I've got to worry ... if they're being hurt by those people," she said.

Deputy Fields has been barred from the school and suspended without pay. The Richland County Sheriff is expected to announce Wednesday whether Deputy Fields will keep his job, but the federal investigation could take several weeks.