James Alex Fields Jr., the white supremacist accused of killing anti-racism protester Heather Heyer at last year’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., was charged with multiple counts of federal hate crimes on Wednesday.
The Justice Department charged Fields with one hate crime act that led to the death of Heyer, 32, who was counterprotesting the so-called Unite the Right rally, as well as 28 counts of hate crimes “causing bodily injury and involving an attempt to kill,” related to the 35 others injured when the 21-year-old Ohio resident allegedly plowed his car into a throng of anti-racist protesters on that August day.
According to the indictment, Fields traveled to Charlottesville to participate in the rally that was widely publicized on social media as associated with white supremacist individuals and other far-right groups.
After authorities declared the event an “unlawful assembly,” Fields left the area, but returned in his car as crowds drifted away from the site of the rally, the indictment charged. He then encountered a group of counter-protesters who were chanting and carrying signs promoting equality and protesting against racial discrimination.
The indictment alleged that Fields slowly backed up his car in a downtown street then rapidly accelerated, ran through a stop sign and across a raised pedestrian mall, and drove directly into the crowd, hitting numerous individuals, killing Heyer, and injuring many others. He then fled the scene.
“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,” said none other than U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement, according to the Washington Post.
“Last summer’s violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation,” he continued. “Today’s indictment should send a clear message to every would-be criminal in America that we aggressively prosecute violent crimes of hate that threaten the core principles of our nation.”
The Aug. 12, 2017, incident was organized and attended by the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi organizations and far-right white nationalists, and led by UVA alumni and white supremacists Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler after a decision by the city to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.
This is the event where President Donald Trump infamously said that there was “blame on both sides.”
In January, Fields was charged by a Virginia state court with first-degree murder, among other crimes, for which he will be tried in November.