The young neo-Nazi who rammed his car into a crowd of protesters during last summer’s violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was indicted Wednesday on 29 counts of federal hate crimes.
One of the charges staring down James Alex Fields Jr., a 21-year-old from Ohio, specifically relates to the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old counterprotestor fatally hit by Fields’ vehicle when he careened into the crowd. Fields is also facing state charges, including first-degree murder, for Heyer’s death.
“At the Department of Justice, we remain resolute that hateful ideologies will not have the last word and that their adherents will not get away with violent crimes against those they target,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Last summer’s violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation.”
The indictment describes how Fields drove his car onto a narrow, one-way street in downtown Charlottesville, just as a “racially and ethnically diverse crowd of individuals were gathered at the bottom of the hill.”
Prosecutors assert that Fields’ actions were calculated, noting that he “stopped and then observed the crowd while idling in his vehicle.” Fields first reversed his car, and then rapidly accelerated, going through a stop sign and then directly into the crowd, sending bodies flying. He then rapidly reversed and fled the scene.
The collision killed Heyer — because of blunt-force trauma to her chest — and injured dozens of others.
In the days following the “Unite the Right” rally, Sessions suggested that the car attack could be prosecuted as a hate crime but added that determining whether federal hate crime statutes covered Fields’ actions would take time.
Experts had initially cautioned that, although Fields ascribes to a racist ideology, his actions may not have been grounded in animus against a particular group.
Cover image: Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, holds a photo of Bro's mother and her daughter, in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Joshua Replogle, File)