What We Know About Accused Charlottesville Driver James Alex Fields Jr.

Monday, August 14th 2017, 12:44 pm
By: News On 6

The man accused of aiming his car at a crowd of counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, had his first court appearance Monday morning.

Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. drove to the rally from his home in Maumee, Ohio.

CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave reports people who knew Fields as a child remember a young man who used racial slurs and appeared fond of Adolf Hitler. He faces a host of charges, including second-degree murder. Fields is also at the center of a civil-rights investigation.

Police say the 20-year-old drove his car into a crowd of protesters and two stopped cars, killing one and injuring at least 19 others.

CBS News

"I just knew he was going to a rally," his mother, Samantha Bloom, said.

She apparently learned of her son's alleged actions from a reporter.

"I didn't know it was white supremacist," she said. "I thought it had something to do with Trump."

Just hours before the attack, pictures show Fields at the alt-right rally dressed in the de facto uniform of a white supremacist group carrying a shield with racist symbols.

"He just looked off, he had that kind of 1,000-yard stare; it just kinda grabbed me," said photographer Kyle Petrozza. "Knowing what he did, it's kind of haunting now, you know. At the time, I thought I was photographing someone who might just be, you know, a follower, you know, just along for the march, but obviously not."

Fields grew up in Kentucky and moved to Ohio with his mother about a year ago. He joined the Army in 2015 but left after four months "due to a failure to meet training standards."

Those who knew him growing up say his racist views started young.

"I knew he had that stuff going on, but I never knew it'd go to such a next level," said Derek Weimer, who was Fields' high school history teacher. "It was very clear he loved Hitler and he loved, you know, the Nazi movement, they were all, you know, geniuses."

A middle school classmate told CBS News, "I knew he was capable of something like this."

President Donald Trump addressed the nation Monday morning following the attack. He said he met with the FBI director and U.S. Attorney General, and the Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation.

"To anyone who acted in criminally in this weekend's racist violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered," he said.