A man who appeared to be marching Saturday with a group of self-proclaimed fascists and had, a day earlier, texted his mother to say he had dropped off his cat for her to watch, is accused of killing a woman and injuring multiple others by driving his car into a crowd of marchers.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, sped his silver Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people who had been protesting the assembly of white nationalists, white supremacists, fascists and others, according to police.
The horrific, albeit brief, attack can be seen from multiple angles via video captured by journalists and marchers, and shared on social media.
Three people killed on Saturday
Suddenly and without warning, a car speeds down Fourth St. SE in Charlottesville, Va., ramming into pedestrians with an audible thud and striking another vehicle from behind, sending people flying through the air and over another car near the intersection of Water St. E. The struck vehicle hits a minivan ahead, sending that vehicle into more pedestrians. Seconds later, the car allegedly driven by Fields Jr., reverses on Fourth St., its front bumper dragging as people who avoided the initial attack chase after the retreating car.
A 32-year-old woman was killed, according to The Associated Press. Her name has not been officially released.
Two Virginia State Police officers investigating the day’s events died when the helicopter they were in crashed in Albemarie County, where Charlottesville is located, according to the Charlottesville Police Department. The men, identified as Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, died at the scene of the crash, according to CPD.
Who is the suspect?
Fields Jr., who has been charged with second-degree murder among other charges, recently moved to Ohio from where he grew up in Kentucky, his mother, Samantha Bloom, told the AP. She said she knew he was attending a rally in Virginia, but that she didn’t know it was a white supremacist rally.
“I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” said Bloom, who became visibly upset as she learned of the injuries and deaths at the rally.
“He had an African-American friend so …,” she said before her voice trailed off. She added that she’d be surprised if her son’s views were that far right, according to the AP.
The Associated Press
Bloom told a reporter with the Toledo Blade that she didn’t speak with her son about his political views, and that she wasn’t aware of his ties to white supremacist groups. She said her son had dropped of his cat for her to tend to while he attended Saturday’s rally.
Suspect appears to march with fascist group
In a photo posted to Twitter by the Anti-Defamation League and reported by BuzzFeed, a man who appears to be Fields Jr. can be seen brandishing a black shield handed out by the self-proclaimed fascist group Vanguard America.
The group released a statement on Twitter late Saturday evening saying Fields Jr. was “in no way, a member of Vanguard America.” It went on to say the shields were handed out freely to anybody in attendance.
Fields Jr. has been charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count related to leaving the scene of the wreck, according to the AP. He is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced late Saturday that federal authorities will pursue a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash. Investigators want to know if Fields Jr. crossed state lines with the intent to commit violence, NPR’s Carrie Johnson told our Newscast Unit.