Charlottesville Attacker's Mom: 'He Had an African-American Friend'

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, has been charged with murder after ramming a car into protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia

A 20-year-old Ohio man accused of driving a car into a group of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia has been charged with second-degree murder and other counts. A 32-year-old woman was killed in the car attack, and dozens were wounded. 

The Charlottesville Police Department said in a statement Saturday night that James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio also faces three counts of malicious wounding, and one count related to leaving the scene.

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Col. Martin Kumer, superintendent of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, said Fields was in custody there Saturday night. Kumer says he doesn’t believe Fields has obtained an attorney yet. He says a bond hearing is scheduled for Monday.

A woman who identified herself as Fields' mother says he told her he was going to the rally but she wasn't aware of the nature of the event.

Samantha Bloom, of Ohio, apparently only learned of the Charlottesville attack from AP reporters who came to interview her about her son.

Bloom confirmed details about her son’s car and his trip to Virginia, saying she received a text from him last week that said he’d gotten some time off from work and was going to a rally.

She said her son hadn’t given her any details about the rally but that she told him “to be careful” and to peaceful.

"I just knew he was going to a rally," Bloom told AP. "I mean, I try to stay out of his political views. You know, we don't, you know, I don't really get too involved, I moved him out to his own apartment, so we I'm watching his cat."

A mugshot of James Alex Fields Jr., who was charged with one count of second degree murder after ramming into a crowed in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017.
HANDOUT/REUTERS

"I thought it had something to do with Trump," Bloom said about the rally. "Trump's not a white supremacist," she said.

"He had an African-American friend so ...," she said of her son.

Bloom became visibly upset as she learned that dozens of people were injured in Charlottesville.

Bloom said she and Fields had just relocated to the Toledo area from Florence, Kentucky, a Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb

U.S. officials have opened a civil rights investigation into the circumstances of the deadly car attack.

The investigation was announced late Saturday by officials of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia and the Richmond field office of the FBI.

In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says U.S. Attorney Rick Mountcastle has begun the investigation and will have the full support of the Justice Department.

Sessions says, “The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice.”

He adds, “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”

Three more men have been arrested in connection to the violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville.

The Virginia State Police announced late Saturday that Troy Dunigan, a 21-year-old from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was charged with disorderly conduct; Jacob L. Smith, a 21-year-old from Louisa, Virginia, was charged with assault and battery; and James M. O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, was charged with carrying a concealed handgun.

Aside from the woman killed in the car-ramming, two state police troopers died when their helicopter crashed in the woods on the outskirts of town.

The organizer of the white nationalist rally says he disavows the violence that eroded it.

Jason Kessler said in an interview Saturday evening that whoever drove a car into a group of counter-protesters “did the wrong thing.” He said he was saddened that people were hurt.

Kessler is a local blogger and activist who described the event as a pro-white rally. He planned it to protest the city’s decision to remove a Confederate monument.

He also criticized law enforcement’s response to the event, which was dispersed before speakers could take the stage.

He said they did a poor job controlling the chaos to allow free speech.