In case you were wondering about the beliefs of James Alex Fields Jr., the alleged terrorist who is accused of driving a car into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., a former high school teacher has come out claiming that in the ninth grade, Fields was singled out by school officials for his “deeply held, radical convictions” on race.
According to the Associated Press, Derek Weimer, who teaches social studies at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Ky., and was one of Fields’ teachers, said that Fields was fascinated with Nazism and idolized Adolf Hitler.
“Once you talked to James for a while, you would start to see that sympathy towards Nazism, that idolization of Hitler, that belief in white supremacy,” Weimer said. “It would start to creep out.”
Fields, 20, is facing charges of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failing to stop at an accident resulting in a death after he drove his car into a group of anti-racism protesters Saturday afternoon, killing Virginia native Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others.
When Fields was in the ninth grade, Weimar said, he was singled out by school officials for his beliefs and “deeply held, radical” convictions about race and Nazism.
“It was a known issue,” Weimer said.
“It was quite clear he had some really extreme views and maybe a little bit of anger behind them,” Weimer told CNN. “Feeling—what’s the word I’m looking for—oppressed or persecuted. He really bought into this white supremacist thing. He was very big into Nazism. He really had a fondness for Adolf Hitler.”
Weimer said that Fields left school for a while, and when he came back he was quieter about politics until his senior year, when the 2016 presidential elections started to get underway, according to AP. Weimer described Fields as a big Donald Trump supporter because of what he believed to be Trump’s views on race.
As a senior, Fields voiced his desire to join the Army, and Weimer, who is a former officer in the Ohio National Guard, helped him through the process, believing that the military would hep expose Fields to different people of different backgrounds and help curb his white supremacist beliefs. Fields, however, was ultimately rejected.
“The Army can confirm that James Alex Fields reported for basic military training in August of 2015,” Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson told AP. “He was, however, released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015,” she said.
Fields’ mother, Samantha Bloom, also told AP that she knew her son had been in Virginia for a political rally, but claimed to have no idea that it involved white supremacists.
“I just told him to be careful,” she said, adding that she warned him, if there were protests, “to make sure he’s doing it peacefully.”
“I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” the mother added.
Bloom also voiced surprise that her son would attend a white supremacist event.
“He had an African-American friend,” she said, according to CNN. (Right. Don’t they always have an African-American friend?)
Fields had been photographed mere hours before the crash carrying the emblem of the hate group Vanguard America, which was one of the groups that organized the “Take America back” campaign in protest of the removal of a Confederate statue. On Sunday, Vanguard that America had denied any association with Fields, even though they promised to organize future events that would be “bigger than Charlottesville.”
In the meantime, Fields is expected to make his first court appearance Monday via video link, CNN reports. It is unclear whether he has an attorney to represent him.