A neo-Nazi plowed his car into protesters who had gathered to oppose a white supremacist rally in a Virginia college town on Saturday, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring at least 19 others.
The bloody day in Charlottesville turned even more tragic in the evening when a Virginia State Police helicopter monitoring the melees crashed miles away — killing two officers, officials said.
The carnage came during a whirlwind 24 hours in which hundreds of white nationalists converged on the home of the University of Virginia — leading to outbreaks of violence and a state of emergency being declared by the governor.
Tensions flared and protesters clashed, culminating in the terrifying moment when a silver Dodge Challenger barreled into a crowd of counter-protesters, knocking some to the ground and throwing others into the air.
“I was standing on the edge of the crowd and I saw the bodies fly,” said Kristen Leigh. “There was a car pummeling through us … bodies flying through the air.”
The 20-year-old driver — identified as James Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio — fled by backing away from the scene, but was arrested a few blocks away.
He was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at a fatal accident, authorities said.
Fields was photographed earlier in the day holding a shield aligned with Vanguard America, a hate group that uses the nationalist slogan “blood and soil” and believes the U.S. is for the “White American peoples.”
Fields’ mother said he told her last week that he was going to an “alt-right” rally in Virginia, but she didn’t inquire further.
“I try to stay out of his political views,” Samantha Bloom told the Toledo Blade. “I don’t get too involved.
“I told him to be careful,” she added. “If they are going to rally, to make sure he is doing it peacefully.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced late Saturday that the Justice Department was opening a federal civil rights investigation into the incident.
— Andy Campbell (@AndyBCampbell) August 12, 2017
The lone victim was identified as Heather Heyer, a paralegal from nearby Greene County whose last Facebook message read, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
Of the 19 people injured in the crash, five were in critical condition, four in serious, six in fair and four were in good health, officials said.
Some 15 other people were hurt in the brawls that broke out before and after the roadway rampage, officials said.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in a sharply worded address, spoke directly to the “white supremacists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville today.”
“Our message is plain and simple: Go home,” McAuliffe said. “You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but patriots.”
President Trump condemned the bloodshed but drew a storm of criticism from politicians on both sides of the aisle after he failed to call out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis blamed for the violence.
Nerves were strained in the Southern city from the start of the “Unite the Right” weekend, which began on Friday night as torch-carrying white supremacists marched through the campus, near Charlottesville’s downtown.
The controversial event was arranged to “affirm the right of Southerners and white people to organize for their interests,” according to its Facebook page.
White nationalists, neo-Confederates and alt-right activists could be heard chanting “white lives matter” and “you will not replace us.” A few chanted the phrase, “blood and soil,” a well-known Nazi rallying cry.
Among those leading the demonstration were organizer Jason Kessler, alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke, who said the large size of the gathering represented how he and his fellow racists feel emboldened under President Trump.
“We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump,” Duke said. “That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
The Friday evening march, with its overt Ku Klux Klan undertones, was eventually broken up by police, with both protesters and opponents claiming they were pepper-sprayed.
By Saturday, tensions erupted as hundreds of people brawled and hurled water bottles at one another.
Camouflage-clad men in combat gear, many carrying rifles, shields and Confederate flags, walked in lockstep.
Many in the crowd wore Nazi uniforms or symbols. A few sported shirts with quotes from Adolf Hitler. “One people, one nation, end immigration,” they chanted as they marched through the streets.
The demonstrators were confronted several times by counter-protesters before they reached their rallying point, a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that is slated to be removed.