water polo club Alleged driver of car that plowed into Charlottesville crowd was a Nazi sympathizer
Charlottesville Police Department BDN
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is seen in a mugshot released by Charlottesville (Virginia) Police Department after being charged with one count of second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of failing to stop at an accident that resulted in a death after police say he drove a car into a crowd of counter protesters during the “Unite the Right” protests by white nationalist and “alt right” demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12, 2017.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia An explosion of violence turned deadly in this normally bucolic university town on Saturday as hundreds of white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters in the streets, and a car allegedly driven by a young man who had long sympathized with Nazi views plowed into crowds, killing one person and leaving 19 injured.
The accused driver, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, espoused Nazi ideals in high school, according to Derek Weimer, a history teacher.
Weimer said that he taught Fields during his junior and senior years at Randall K. Cooper High School in Kentucky. During a class called America’s Modern Wars, Weimer said that Fields wrote a deeply researched paper about the Nazi military during World War II.
“It was obvious that he had this fascination with Nazism and a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler,” Weimer said. “He had white supremacist views. He really believed in that stuff.”
Weimer said that Fields’ research project into the Nazi military was well written but appeared to be a “big lovefest for the German military and the Waffen SS.”
Weimer said that as a teacher he unsuccessfully attempted to steer Fields away from his Nazi infatuation by using historical examples and facts.
“When you’re a teacher and you see one of your former students do this, it’s a nightmare scenario,” Weimer said. “This was something that was growing in him. I admit I failed. I tried my best. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about because this stuff is tearing up our country.”
Video recorded at the scene of the crash shows the 2010 Dodge Challenger accelerating into crowds on a pedestrian mall, sending bodies flying and then reversing at high speed, hitting yet more people. Witnesses said the street was filled with people opposed to the white nationalists, who had come to town bearing Confederate flags and anti Semitic epithets.
Fields was arrested and charged with one count of second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit and run attended failure to stop with injury, police said. He is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday, Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail Superintendent Martin Kumer said. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia said late Saturday that they have opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car crash. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
Records show Fields last lived in Maumee, Ohio, about 15 miles southwest of Toledo.
Fields’ father was killed by a drunken driver a few months before the boy’s birth, according to an uncle who spoke on the condition of anonymity. His father left him money that the uncle kept in a trust until Fields reached adulthood.
“When he turned 18, he demanded his money, and that was the last I had any contact with him,” the uncle said.
Fields, he said, grew up mostly in northern Kentucky, where he’d been raised by a single mother who was a paraplegic. The uncle, who saw Fields mostly at family gatherings, described his nephew as “not really friendly,
Richard Spencer, a leader in the white supremacist movement who coined the term “alt right,” said he didn’t know Fields but had been told he was a member of Vanguard America, which bills itself as the “Face of American Fascism.” In a statement tweeted Saturday night, the group denied any connection to Fields.
In several images that circulated online, he was photographed with the group while wearing its unofficial uniform. Like members, he was dressed in a white polo, baggy khakis and sunglasses, while holding a black shield that features a common Vanguard symbol.
“The shields seen do not denote membership, nor does the white shirt,” the group said in its statement. “The shields were freely handed out to anyone in attendance.”
Vanguard members did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.
As of Saturday evening, the crash had left five people in critical condition and another 14 injured, according to a spokeswoman at the University of Virginia Medical Center, where all of the wounded were being treated. City officials said an additional 14 had been hurt in street brawls.
Also on Saturday, two state police officers died when their helicopter crashed on the outskirts of town. Bates of Quinton, Virginia, was the pilot, and H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian, Virginia, was a passenger, according to officials. State police said their Bell 407 helicopter was assisting with the unrest in Charlottesville. Bates died one day before his 41st birthday; Cullen was 48.
On Sunday morning, one day after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, he and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam attended a service at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church. The governor brought the predominantly African American congregation to its feet as he stood at the pulpit and condemned “the white supremacists and neo Nazis who came to our state yesterday.”
“You pretend you’re patriots. You are not patriots. You are dividers,” he said, then later, his voice roaring, “Shame on you!”
Police identified the woman killed by the car as Heather D. Heyer, 32, a Charlottesville resident.
As a child, said a longtime friend, Heyer, who was white, had stood up for people being picked on at school or on the bus. She never feared fighting for what she believed in.
“She died for a reason,” said Felicia Correa, who is biracial. “I don’t see any difference in her or a soldier who died in war. She, in a sense, died for her country. She was there standing up for what was right.”