The events in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday spiraled out of control early in the aftermath of the tiki-torch display on the University of Virginia campus Friday night, culminating in heinous terror after a car slammed into a crowd of counter-protestors. The attack left at least 19 injured and killed one, later identified as 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and earned condemnation from politicians in both parties while also creating a new controversy for President Trump due to his tepid response.
The driver of the vehicle was arrested shortly after the attack and had been photographed earlier in the day alongside one of the many hate groups that took part in the “Unite The Right” rally in defense of the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park according to the New York Daily News:
The 20-year-old driver — identified as James Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio — fled by backing away from the scene, but was arrested a few blocks away.
He was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at a fatal accident, authorities said.
Fields had informed his mother about the event last week according to the Daily News, but she was reportedly not aware of his political leanings. This would include any possible involvement with Vanguard America, the hate group he was photographed alongside but later denied he was a member in a statement released after the attack. According to his mother, she had hoped he was going to the event in peace:
“I try to stay out of his political views,” Samantha Bloom told the Toledo Blade. “I don’t get too involved…
“I told him to be careful,” she added. “If they are going to rally, to make sure he is doing it peacefully.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions did announce on Saturday evening that the Department of Justice would be opening a “federal civil rights investigations” into the incident and Buzzfeed notes that the FBI is currently investigating the attack to determine if Fields violated any civil rights with his actions. They also add that many details about Fields’ background are beginning to come together, including his alleged Facebook page featuring “memes embraced by the alt right” and “overt references to Nazism and white supremacy.” Other details show Fields had attempted to join the military in 2015 and include a photograph of Fields with the Dodge Challenger used as a murder weapon on Saturday — his first car according to Buzzfeed.
Heather Heyer, the lone death from the attack, was a 32-year-old paralegal with the Miller Law Group in Charlottesville. Bystanders at the scene attempted CPR on Heyer, but their attempts were not enough to save her. Her death as a result of the attack immediately became a beacon for those shocked by the events of the day and tributes soon poured out as her identity was confirmed.
A GoFundMe for Heyer was created by her friend Felicia Correa according to the Daily News, amassing $29,000 in donations by Sunday morning. Correa spoke with the Daily News about Heyer after learning about her death through a co-worker at the law firm: