The student-filmed video showing Ben Fields, a sheriff’s deputy and so-called "school resource officer" at Spring Valley High in Columbia, violently assaulting a teen girl in the middle of a classroom has inspired anger all across the nation. Not only is the clip another in an unfortunately verbose series of grave examples of police brutality caught on camera, it’s apparently business as usual for Fields.
"I recognized him on the spot," 36-year-old Army veteran Carlos Martin tells the New York Daily News. "I remember how big he was." Martin was the victim of a previous violent encounter with Fields in 2005, one as equally unprovoked as that of the young student at Spring Valley High. Martin, who had just moved to Columbia after an Army-related stay in Germany, reportedly pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex with his music playing loudly after a day of work at nearby Moncrief Army Community Hospital. Fields was already on the scene after receiving an apparent noise complaint:
Martin said the beefy officer "snapped" after he called him "dude," and slammed him on the ground. He began pepper-spraying the helpless veteran, but Martin said he was trained in the military to resist the chemicals. An entire canister of the stuff failed to disable Martin.
"He became even more violent because I didn't react like most people would."
Martin’s wife at the time, Tashiana Rogers, witnessed the encounter and quickly attempted to take photos of the police-perpetrated violence with her cellphone. Fields then told his partner to "get her black ass," according to court documents, before obtaining the phone and deleting most of the photos. When Martin told Fields the rough arrest would definitely lead to a lawsuit, the officer responded "I’m glad Johnnie Cochran is dead."
Though Martin and Rogers both filed suit against Fields for civil rights violations, that case eventually "fizzled out" after a prolonged legal process. Martin says the incident contributed to years of mental anguish, including the downfall of his marriage and an apparent discharge from the military, who then unfairly viewed him as a criminal. "I felt like if [Fields] had felt the consequences from 2005,” Rogers tells the Daily News, "this wouldn't happen today."
Fields, of course, didn't feel those consequences and presumably never has. As more student witnesses come forward to detail the profoundly unsettling encounter at Spring Valley, the circumstances surrounding the young girl's assault only grow more and more maddening. Speaking with WLTX 19, the student who filmed the attack revealed that the victim had simply been using her phone "for a quick second" before the officer was called into the classroom.
"I've never seen anything so nasty looking, so sick to the point that you know, other students are turning away, don't know what to do, and are just scared for their lives," the student told reporters. "That's supposed to be somebody that's going to protect us. Not somebody that we need to be scared of, or afraid."