Charlottesville car attack suspect idolised Hitler – ex-teacher
Police charged James Alex Fields with second-degree murder after he drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman.
A man accused of driving a car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters in Virginia was fascinated with Nazism, idolised Adolf Hitler and had been singled out at school for his “deeply-held, radical” convictions on race, a teacher has said.
James Fields also confided he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was younger and had been prescribed an anti-psychotic medication, Derek Weimer said.
In high school, Fields was an “average” student but had a keen interest in military history, Hitler, and Nazi Germany, said Mr Weimer, his social studies teacher at Randall K Cooper school in Union, Kentucky.
“Once you talked to James for a while, you would start to see that sympathy towards Nazism, that idolisation of Hitler, that belief in white supremacy,” Mr Weimer said.
“It would start to creep out.”
Police have charged Fields, 20, with second-degree murder and other offences for allegedly driving his silver Dodge Challenger through a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville on Saturday, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and wounding at least 19 other people.
A Virginia State Police helicopter sent in a large-scale police response to the violence, then crashed into woods outside the town, killing both troopers on board.
Fields had been photographed hours earlier carrying the emblem of Vanguard America, one of the white supremacist hate groups that organised the “take America back” campaign sparked by the removal of a Confederate statue.
The group denied any association with Fields.
The mayor of Charlottesville, political leaders, activists and community organisers around the US planned rallies, vigils and education campaigns to combat the hate groups.
They also urged US president Donald Trump to forcefully denounce the organisations, some of which specifically cited Mr Trump’s election after a campaign of racially-charged rhetoric as validation of their beliefs.
Federal authorities are holding a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash.
Mr Weimer said school officials had singled out Fields when he was in the ninth grade for his political beliefs and “deeply-held, radical” convictions on race and Nazism.
“It was a known issue,” he said.
Mr Weimer said he lost contact with Fields after he graduated and was surprised to hear reports he had enlisted in the army.
“The Army can confirm that James Alex Fields reported for basic military training in August of 2015, said army spokeswoman Lt Col Jennifer Johnson.
“He was, however, released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015.”
Fields’ mother, Samantha Bloom, said on Saturday she knew her son was going to Virginia for a political rally but had no idea it involved white supremacists.
“I just told him to be careful,” she said, adding she warned him that if there were protests “to make sure he’s doing it peacefully”.
Saturday’s chaos erupted as neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and other white supremacist groups arrived for the rally.
Counter-protesters were also there and the two sides clashed, with people throwing punches, hurling water bottles and unleashing chemical sprays.
Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, police in riot gear ordered people out of the streets, and helicopters circled overhead.
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