The Ohio man accused of plowing a car into a group of anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday had been photographed holding a shield bearing a white supremacist emblem just hours before the deadly attack.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was snapped standing among members of the self-proclaimed fascist group Vanguard America, while wearing a matching white polo. In his hands, he held up a Vanguard America shield.
Police say Fields later drove a car into a crowd of people demonstrating against the white supremacists who came to Charlottesville for a “Unite the Right” rally. A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 others injured in the car attack.
Vanguard America attempted to distance itself from Fields in a statement shared on Twitter late Saturday night. It said Fields was “in no way, a member of Vanguard America.” The group said its shields were handed out to anyone attending the rally.
Fields’ mother, speaking to The Associated Press on Saturday, said she knew her son was attending a rally but expressed surprise that it was for white supremacists.
“I thought it had something to do with [President Donald] Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” said his mother, Samantha Bloom.
Bloom, who said her son recently moved to Ohio from Kentucky, told the Toledo Blade that she didn’t speak with her son about his political views.
One of Fields’ former high school teachers, who spoke with Cincinnati TV station WCPO, said he remembered Fields as having “radical views” that made him stand out.
“He had some very radical views on race, he was very infatuated with Nazis, with Adolf Hitler,” Derek Weimer of Cooper High School in Boone County, Kentucky, told the station.
“He was pretty infatuated with that stuff. His freshman year he had an issue with that that was raised,” Weimer added, without going into more detail.
Fields was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count related to leaving the scene of the wreck.