The man charged with driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters during a rally in Charlottesville, Va., grew up in Kentucky, according to several media reports.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was arrested Saturday, the Associated Press reported. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed in the crash and several others were injured. The car attack on the counter-protesters occurred during a white nationalist rally.
Fields had been photographed hours earlier carrying the emblem of one of the hate groups that organized the “take America back” campaign, The Associated Press reported. In a photo taken by the New York Daily News, Fields, 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. Vanguard America denied on Sunday any association with the suspect, the AP reported.
Fields, of Ohio, grew up in Florence, in northern Kentucky, according to his mother, Samantha Bloom, the Associated Press reported. Bloom told the AP she received a text from Fields last week that said he had gotten some time off from work and was going to a rally. Bloom said Fields had not given any details about the rally, but told him to be careful and peaceful.
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“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, the AP reported.
“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.
Fields was 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 told the AP.
Fields’ father was killed by a drunk driver before Fields was born, an uncle of Fields told the Washington Post. Fields’ father left him money that the uncle kept in a trust until Fields became an adult, the uncle told the Post.
“When he turned 18, he demanded his money, and that was the last I had any contact with him,” the uncle said.
Fields’ ex-high school teacher, Derek Weimer, told WCPO-TV in Cincinnati that Fields was a quiet student who had some “radical ideas on race.” Weimer told the station that he taught history to Fields at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Ky.
“He was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler. He also had a huge military history, especially with German military history and World War II. But, he was pretty infatuated with that stuff,” Weimer told WCPO-TV.
Fields entered the Army on Aug. 18, 2015, according to the New York Times. Less than four months later, his period of active duty concluded. It was not clear why he left the military.
A Carfax report shows the vehicle used in the attack was purchased in June 2015 from Kelly Toyota in Florence, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The title for the vehicle was updated the next month in Maumee, Ohio.
Online records do not show any previous criminal history for Fields, the Enquirer reported.