The 20-year-old man accused of driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters during a white nationalist rally Charlottesville, Va., had an “infatuation” with Adolf Hitler and Nazis, according to the suspect’s high school history teacher.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was arrested Saturday and charged with second-degree murder after he allegedly slammed his car into a group of people in downtown Charlottesville, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
Derek Weimer said he was not surprised when authorities named Fields as the driver. Weimer, who taught history to Fields Jr. at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Ky., said he was quiet yet bright student who had “radical ideas on race.”
“He was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler,” Weimer told WCPO News in Cincinnati. “He also had a huge military history, especially with German military history and World War II. But, he was pretty infatuated with that stuff.”
Weimer also said that Fields Jr. wanted to go into military service but was rejected on mental health grounds.
“His senior year, he was real gung-ho about joining the Army,” Weimer said. “And he, towards the end of the year, found out that he was denied, and it was because of a history of anti-psychotic mediation that he was prescribed.”
Before Saturday’s attack, Fields Jr. had recently moved to Ohio from where he grew up in northern Kentucky. His mother, Samantha Bloom, said she knew her son was attending a rally in Virginia but didn’t know it was a white supremacist march, reports the Associated Press.
Eyewitness video of Saturday’s incident shows a gray Dodge Challenger barreling down a crowded street before smashing into another car and sending bystanders flying into the air. The crash was the height of violence during a morning of clashes between white nationalists and neo-Nazi groups and counter-protesters in downtown Charlottesville.
Prior to the crash, Fields was captured in a photo marching with the white nationalist organization Vanguard America. The group has publicly denied Fields is a member.
Weimer told WCPO that Fields’ involvement with the white supremacists was rooted in his previous Nazi sympathies and mental health history.
“You start to see how it is like this perfect storm,” he said. “It comes together and you get an incident like this.
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