Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Man accused of ramming protesters pictured with racist group and had Nazi infatuation, teacher says

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The driver of a car accused of crashing into a crowd protesting a white supremacist rally in Virginia had been photographed hours earlier carrying the emblem of one of the hate groups that organized the "take America back" campaign.

Vanguard America denied on Sunday any association with the suspect. A separate hate group that organized the initial rally pledged on social media to organize future events that would be "bigger than Charlottesville."

Meanwhile, the mayor of Charlottesville and political leaders of all political stripes vowed to combat the hate groups and urged President Donald Trump to forcefully denounce the organizations that had promoted the protest against the removal of a Confederate statue. Some of those groups specifically cited Trump's election after a campaign of racially charged rhetoric as validation for their beliefs.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced late Saturday that federal authorities will pursue a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash. The violence and deaths in Charlottesville "strike at the heart of American law and justice," Sessions wrote. "When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated."

Police charged James Alex Fields Jr. with second-degree murder and other counts after a silver Dodge Challenger they say he was driving barreled through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and wounding at least 19.

In a photo taken by the New York Daily News, Fields, a 20-year-old who recently moved to Ohio from Kentucky, stands with a handful of men, all dressed similarly in the Vanguard America uniform of khakis and white polo shirts. The men hold white shields with a black-and-white logo of two axes.

The Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee is in the background. The Daily News said the photo was taken about 10:30 a.m.

Charlottesville officials say Fields crashed his car into the crowd at 1:42 p.m. The Anti-Defamation League says the group believes the U.S. is an exclusively white nation, and uses propaganda to recruit young white men online and on college campuses.

In a Twitter post, the group said it had handed out the shields "to anyone in attendance who wanted them," and denied Fields was a member. ''All our members are safe an (sic) accounted for, with no arrests or charges."

Fields Jr. espoused Nazi ideals in high school, Derek Weimer, a history teacher told the Washington Post.

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's 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."

In blog posts that appeared Saturday after the violence, the Daily Stormer, a leading white nationalist website that promoted the Charlottesville event, pledged to hold more events "soon."

"We are going to start doing this nonstop," the post said. "We are going to go bigger than Charlottesville. We are going to go huge."

Saturday's chaos erupted as neo-Nazis, skinheads, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacist groups staged a rally to protest the city of Charlottesville's plans to remove the Lee statue. Peaceful counter-protesters arrived and marched downtown, carrying signs that read "black lives matter" and "love."

The two sides quickly clashed, with hundreds of people throwing punches, hurling water bottles and unleashing chemical sprays. Some came prepared for a fight, with body armor and helmets. Videos that ricocheted around the world on social media showed people beating each other with sticks and shields. Amid the violence, the Dodge Challenger tore through the crowd.

The impact hurled people into the air and blew off their shoes. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed as she crossed the street.

"It was a wave of people flying at me," said Sam Becker, 24, sitting in the emergency room to be treated for leg and hand injuries.

Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety. Video caught the car reversing, hitting more people, its windshield splintered from the collision and bumper dragging on the pavement. Medics carried the injured, bloodied and crying, away as a police tank rolled down the street.

Virginia's governor declared a state of emergency, police in riot gear ordered people out of the streets, and helicopters circled overhead, including one that later crashed, killing two state police troopers. Officials had not provided a crowd estimate but it appeared to number well over a thousand.

Fields' mother, Samantha Bloom, told The Associated Press on Saturday night that she knew her son was attending a rally in Virginia but 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.

Information from the Associated Press and Washington Post was used in this report.

Man accused of ramming protesters pictured with racist group and had Nazi infatuation, teacher says 08/13/17 [Last modified: Sunday, August 13, 2017 5:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa man turns himself in for Sunday hit and run fatality

    Public Safety

    A Tampa man was arrested early Sunday after he struck and killed a pedestrian, left the scene, and then called 911 to turn himself in.

  2. Tom Jones' Two Cents: Bucs, Jaguars both get blame for terrible preseason ratings

    TV and Radio

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst of a weekend in televised sports.

    Worst matchup

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) tries to get past Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Brian Dixon (41) and safety Barry Church (42) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) JVS119
  3. Hernando County Sheriff's Office: Deputies shoot suicidal woman who brandished shotgun

    Crime

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff's deputies shot a woman they believed to be suicidal after she pointed a shotgun at them Sunday, according to a police report.

  4. Trump administration disbands federal advisory committee on climate change

    National

    WASHINGTON - The Trump administration has decided to disband the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, a group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government's climate analysis into long-term planning.

    President Donald Trump. [Associated Press]
  5. Blake Snell shines as Rays beat Mariners to end skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell delivered the best outing of his young career and the Rays offense continued its home run-hitting ways for a 3-0 victory Sunday against the Mariners in front of 13,354 at Tropicana Field.

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) with starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) after the top of the seventh inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.