The man accused of killing a woman by plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protesters outside a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday was a Nazi sympathizer dating back to high school, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
James Alex Fields Jr. sped his silver Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people who had been protesting the assembly of white nationalists, white supremacists, fascists and others, according to police. Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer, 32, was killed in the attack.
Fields has been charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count related to leaving the scene of the wreck, according to The Associated Press. The FBI also says it is opening a civil rights investigation into the incident, together with the Department of Justice.
“It was obvious that he had this fascination with Nazism and a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler,” his former history teacher, Derek Weimer told the Post. “He had white supremacist views. He really believed in that stuff.”
As a teacher, Weimer said he highlighted historical facts, not just opinion, in an unsuccessful attempt to steer Fields away from his infatuation with the Nazis.
“This was something that was growing in him,” Weimer told The Post. “I admit I failed. I tried my best. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.”