Charlottesville suspect James Alex Fields denied bail; city continues to mourn tragic deaths
CHARLOTTEVILLE, Va. - The man police say intentionally drove a car into a crowd of protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday was denied bail by a judge in court Monday morning.
The alleged vehicle attack took place Saturday afternoon, a few hours after violent clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters. The suspect, 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr. of Ohio, is accused of driving his silver Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
A spokeswoman for UVA Medical Center says 10 patients treated their facility have been released and nine others are in good condition.
A Virginia State Police helicopter deployed in a large-scale police response to the violence later crashed into the woods outside of town, killing the two troopers on board.
Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said he has "regrets" over the deaths that happened this weekend.
“I certainly have regrets,” he said. “We lost three lives this weekend – a local citizen and two fellow officers. We certainly have regrets. It was a tragic, tragic weekend.”
Fields had been photographed hours before the alleged vehicle attack carrying the emblem of Vanguard America, one of the hate groups that organized the "take America back" campaign in protest of the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville. The group on Sunday denied any association with Fields, even as a separate hate group that organized Saturday's rally pledged on social media to organize future events that would be "bigger than Charlottesville."
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Derek Weimer, a former social studies teacher of Fields during his junior and senior years at Randall K. Cooper high school in Union, Kentucky, said Fields was fascinated with Nazism, idolized Adolf Hitler, and had been singled out by school officials in the 9th grade for his "deeply held, radical" convictions on race.
"Once you talked to James for a while, you would start to see that sympathy towards Nazism, that idolization of Hitler, that belief in white supremacy," Weimer said in an interview with the Associated Press. "It would start to creep out."
An Army spokesperson confirmed Fields enlisted and reported for basic training in August of 2015, but was released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015.
Fields faces second-degree murder charges, but officials said the charges could change as their investigation develops. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday morning that the act, "does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute."
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"You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America," Sessions said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Fields was not physically present in court Monday morning but appeared by video link. Fields was seated and wearing a black and white striped uniform. Fields answered questions from the judge with simple responses of "Yes, sir" when asked if he understood the judge.
He admitted to the judge that he had no ties to Charlottesville. The judge said the public defenders' office informed him it could not represent Fields because a relative of someone in the office was injured in Saturday's protest. The judge ordered Fields to remain in custody and his bond hearing rescheduled as he did not yet have legal representation. A local attorney was being appointed to represent the 20-year-old.
Fields was scheduled to be back in court on Aug. 25 at 11 a.m., though his attorney could request a new bond hearing before then.
According to Securitas Security Service USA, Fields worked as a security officer for their company in Ohio. He started working for them for two months in 2016 and again from November to the present.
The company says the state of Ohio issued Fields a security officer license and that the man "performed his duties satisfactorily."
Securitas says Fields was on previously requested vacation leave and his employment has been terminated.
In Charlottesville on Monday, people have been leaving flowers and messages at a memorial set up for Heyer on the street where she was killed. Many in this community remained heartbroken and devastated over the hate and violence that took place.
"I get that a lot of people are coming down here for the statue, but they came down for so much more than that," said Lucas DeLorenzo Eberly. "Because this was not about a statue. This was not about a statue at all. This was about somebody who hated a different group of people so much that they just tried to slaughter them in the street."
"If you are full of hatred and everything, stay where you are," said a Charlottesville resident. "We don't need you here."
After President Donald Trump faced increased pressure to call out the groups afflicted in Saturday's violence by name, he described members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as "criminals and thugs" during an on-camera statement delivered at the White House on Monday.
"We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence," the president said. "We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans."
On Saturday, Trump sparked criticism on both sides of the political aisle after he blamed violence on "many sides" in Charlottesville. The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, had applauded Trump's comments on Saturday, writing, "Trump comments were good. He didn't attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. ... No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him."
Governor Terry McAuliffe released a statement about the next steps he and his administration will take following the events that took place this weekend in Charlottesville.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.