James Alex Fields Jr., the man who drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia and killed one person, has now officially been charged. Fields, who calls himself a neo-Nazi, is facing first-degree murder.
Fields killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured 35 more as he drove his Dodge Charger straight into a group of counter-protesters who were standing up against white supremacy. The group was there because Charlottesville had been the setting for several “Unite the Right” rallies that saw neo-Nazis and white supremacists attempt to make their presence known in the area. Fields himself had driven there from Ohio. The group was protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
After killing Heyer, Fields fled the scene but was eventually arrested and charged with second-degree murder. This is significant because Fields’ original second-degree murder charges would have him looking at 30 to 40 years in prison if convicted. However, the first-degree murder charge means the judge in the case has found sufficient evidence to prove the murder was pre-meditated. This is also significant when it comes to sentences: Fields would face life in prison without parole if found guilty of first-degree murder.
According to the Washington Post, Fields has been in jail for the past four months. The case will go to a grand jury and is scheduled for Dec. 18.
It was reported back in August that Fields also faced five other felony charges, including two counts of malicious wounding and three counts of aggravated malicious wounding. At the time, the Charlottesville Police Department released a statement that Fields’s victims “suffered serious injuries and in some cases permanent physical disabilities. This continues to be an ongoing criminal investigation with additional charges anticipated in the near future.”