AP NEWS

New charges for suspect who drove car into counter-protesters at white nationalist rally

December 16, 2017 GMT

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. • The man accused of driving into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville faces a new charge of first-degree murder after a court hearing Thursday in which prosecutors presented surveillance video and other evidence against him.

Prosecutors announced at the start of a preliminary hearing for James Alex Fields that they were seeking to upgrade the second-degree murder charge he previously faced in the Aug. 12 collision in Charlottesville that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens injured. The judge agreed to that and ruled there is probable cause for all charges against Fields, including nine lesser felony counts, to proceed.

Fields’ case will now be presented to a grand jury for an indictment.

Authorities say the 20-year-old, described by a former teacher as having a keen interest in Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, drove his speeding car into a group of counterprotesters the day of the “Unite the Right” rally that drew hundreds of white nationalist from around the country. The attack came after the rally in this Virginia college town had descended into chaos — with violent brawling between attendees and counterdemonstrators — and authorities had forced the crowd to disband.

Surveillance footage from a Virginia State Police helicopter, played by prosecutors in court, captured the moment of impact by the car and the cursing of the startled troopers on board. The video then showed the car as it reversed, drove away and eventually pulled over.

Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, sat quietly in a striped jumpsuit with his hands cuffed during the hearing.