On Saturday, a 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 others were injured after a gray Dodge Challenger rammed into counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The attack was captured on video from multiple angles. Security experts have called the attack an act of domestic terrorism.
The suspect behind the attack has been identified as 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. Fields was apprehended Saturday and charged with second-degree murder:
Here are five things you need to know about the terrorism suspect.
1. Fields is a white supremacist and his attack appears to have been ideologically motivated. In other words, Fields is a terrorist. A photo of the suspect, touting white supremacist emblems and standing alongside members of a white supremacist hate group, has been circulating online. The photo has been shared and authenticated by experts at the Center for Extremism.
The photo indicates that Fields, at the very least, supported the white supremacist organization, Vanguard America (VA). According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “VA has participated in white supremacist rallies and protests around the country."
The ADL explains the VA’s history further:
Originally VA was firmly in the alt-right hemisphere with focus on white identity. At that time the group was called American Vanguard. However, the VA has increasingly demonstrated a neo-Nazi ideology. In one iteration of their manifesto, posted in February 2017, the VA explained that America was built on the foundation of White Europeans, and that the glory of the Aryan nation must be recaptured. VA has also stressed the need for the nation to be free of the influence of the international Jews. In July 2017, VA tweeted, “Those behind the subversive elements eroding our culture often have something in common. Jewish influence is prevalent, invasive, dangerous.”
In April 2017, VA broadened their ties to the neo-Nazi movement by participating in a white supremacist rally in Pikeville, Kentucky. The event was organized by the Nationalist Front (NF), an umbrella group co-led by Jeff Schoep, the leader of the neo-Nazi Nationalist Socialist Movement, and Matthew Heimbach, the leader of the Traditionalist Workers Party. A short time after the rally, VA became a member of the NF.
The group is fairly active on social media, working to recruit disgruntled young white men from all across the country, particularly the Midwest, Southwest, and Deep South.
Despite being a self-proclaimed fascist group dedicated to white supremacy, VA is distancing itself from the terror suspect, claiming that Fields was “in no way a member of Vanguard America.”
An official statement regarding today's incidents and the individual in question. pic.twitter.com/wBaERomHEZ— Vanguard America (@VanguardAm) August 13, 2017
2. Fields was born in Kenton, Kentucky but his most recent place of residence is linked to an address in Maumee, Ohio. Fields only recently moved to a new apartment after living with his mother, Samantha Lea Bloom. Fields’ mother said that she knew her son was attending a rally in Virginia, but didn’t know it was a white nationalist rally.
“I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump's not a supremacist," Bloom told the Associated Press. Defending her son against accusations of racism, Bloom added: "He had an African-American friend so ... "
3. Fields seems to be an introvert. Fields didn’t have a reliable male presence in his life; his father died before he was born. According to the suspect’s aunt, Fields was a “very quiet little boy” as a child. The suspect’s friend and neighbor corroborated this characterization, adding that Fields “kept to himself a lot.”
“He had some trouble in school making friends,” she added, speaking with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity.
4. Fields joined the military but abruptly dropped out. “Military records show that Mr. Fields entered the Army on Aug. 18, 2015, around the time his mother wrote on Facebook that he had left for boot camp,” reports The Times. “Less than four months later, on Dec. 11, his period of active duty concluded. It was not immediately clear why he left the military.”
5. Fields is a registered Republican. According to public records, Fields registered to vote in Lucas County, Ohio. He registered on January 23, 2016, presumably to participate in the 2016 presidential election.
Fields’ Facebook page appears to have contained controversial and racist material. It was taken down shorty after the terrorist attack.
UPDATE: Fields' former high school teacher has spoken out, providing further context to the terror suspect's ideological leanings. In an interview with WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, Randall K. Cooper High School (Union, Kentucky) Derek Weimer said that Fields was a quiet, if not troubled young man who had some “radical ideas on race.”
“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," Weimar noted. "But, he was pretty infatuated with that stuff.”