What We Know About James Alex Fields, Driver Charged in Charlottesville Killing

The 20-year-old man was arrested in the murder of Heather D. Heyer, 32, after he drove a car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators at a white supremacist rally

James Alex Fields Jr., left, in a crowd of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. Hours later, the police say, he killed a 32-year-old woman and injured 19 other people by driving a car into a line of other cars.
Hawes Spencer for The New York Times

James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio was charged with second-degree murder in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday after he smashed a car into a line of cars in an episode that left a 32-year-old woman dead and injured at least 19 other people who were protesting a rally staged by white nationalists.

Background

Mr. Fields, 20, was born in Kenton, Ky., to Samantha Lea Bloom.

He was living with his mother until “five or six months ago” when he moved to his own apartment in Maumee, Ohio, according to an interview that Ms. Bloom gave to The Toledo Blade. They moved to Ohio from Kentucky about year ago because of her job, she said.

Mr. Fields’s father died before he was born, an aunt, Pam Fields, said in an interview on Sunday. Ms. Fields said she had not seen her nephew, whom she remembered as a “very quiet little boy,” more than five times in the past 10 years.

A friend and former neighbor of Ms. Bloom’s in the condominium complex where she lived until last year remembered her son as a quiet teenager who “kept to himself a lot.”

A driver smashed into a line of cars, causing a chain reaction that that killed one person and injured at least 19 others demonstrating against a white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. Aug. 12, 2017.
Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress, via Associated Press

“He had some trouble in school making friends,” said the friend, who requested anonymity because she said she feared for her safety.

“She had struggled with him during his teen years but he came around towards the end of school,” she said, adding, “She was always trying to do the best for her son.”

Suspect Told His Mother He Was Going to Rally Associated Press

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ms. Bloom said she knew her son was going to a rally, but that she tried to “stay out of his political views.” She said that she thought the rally “had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist.”

Military records show that Mr. Fields entered the Army on Aug. 18, 2015, around the time his mother wrote on Facebook that he had left for boot camp. Less than four months later, on Dec. 11, his period of active duty concluded. It was not immediately clear why he left the military.

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

A photographer said he saw Mr. Fields on Saturday with symbols of Vanguard America, a group whose manifesto declares that “a government based in the natural law must not cater to the false notion of equality.” The organization denied any ties to Mr. Fields.

“The driver of the vehicle that hit counterprotesters today was, in no way, a member of Vanguard America,” the group said in a statement on its Twitter account. “All our members had been safely evacuated by the time of the incident. The shields seen do not denote membership, nor does the white shirt. The shirts were freely handed out to anyone in attendance.”

A Violent Crash

Mr. Fields was driving a Dodge Challenger “at a high rate of speed” in downtown Charlottesville at about 1:45 p.m., a spokeswoman for the city said in a statement. He drove the car into a sedan, which hit a minivan that was in front of it.

The impact of the crash pushed the sedan and the minivan into a crowd of pedestrians. Mr. Fields fled the scene in the Challenger but was stopped a short time later by the Charlottesville police.

The city identified the dead woman as Heather D. Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville.