The man accused of killing a woman by plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protesters outside a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday is a Nazi sympathizer dating back to high school, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
James Alex Fields, Jr., age 20, who drove to the rally from Ohio, wrote a high school research project on World War II that was a “big lovefest for the German military and the Waffen-SS,” his former history teacher, Derek Weimer, told the Post.
“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.”
Online photographs of Fields show him wearing the regalia of the “alt-right” group Vanguard America, including a shield, but the organization denied that Fields was a member.
According to police, Fields’s minivan came to a stop behind a sedan on a street packed with anti-fascist protesters. He allegedly slammed his car into the sedan, causing a collision with people, then hit more people by reversing his vehicle at high speed.
His alleged actions led to the death of Heather Heyer, age 32. Fields is being charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and an additional vehicular charge. The FBI and the local district attorney are opening a civil rights investigation into the events in Charlottesville, which were precipitated by a 500-strong white nationalist protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a public park.