Suspect in US car attack admired Hitler as student: teacher


CHICAGO: The suspected white supremacist who allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of protesters over the weekend, leaving one woman dead, is a failed soldier who openly admired Adolf Hitler at High School, according to associates.

Teachers and relatives of James Fields, who was refused bail Monday by a court in Virginia, painted a picture of a reserved young man – but one who was not afraid to espouse white supremacist views from a young age. A photo of Fields, 20, captured at Saturday’s rally showed him carrying symbols attributed to a racist organisation, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors American hate groups.

Fields’ views were known to Derek Weimer, his former teacher at Randall K Cooper High School in Kentucky, where he said other teachers were also concerned about the quiet student’s “very radical beliefs.” He was interested in military tactics, especially those employed by the German military during World War II, Weimer said.

“He was very big into Nazism. He really had a fondness for Adolf Hitler,” Weimer told CNN.

“He went to a good school. Lived in a good neighbourhood. There were plenty of people around to try to guide him in the right direction. My first feeling is we failed. I failed,” Weimer said in a separate interview with Ohio radio station WVXU.

Relatives of Fields said his father died before he was born and that he suffered from the lack of a father figure, while fellow students told US media he struggled to make friends at school. Fields enlisted in the US Army in August 2015 soon after graduating, but was released four months later “due to a failure to meet training standards,” the service said in a statement.

Fields and his mother Samantha Bloom had moved from Kentucky to nearby Ohio in recent months, Bloom told reporters, appearing surprised to learn her son had been arrested over the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer in Charlottesville on Saturday. The website TMZ said it had obtained Kentucky police records showing that Bloom called the police due to her son’s threatening and violent behaviour when he was aged 13 and 14.

Bloom told The Toledo Blade that her son had said he was going to an ‘alt-right’ rally in Virginia – using a term that encompasses the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

“I thought it had something to do with Trump,” she told the newspaper, adding she did not know about the extremist nature of the event.

“I try to stay out of his political views,” she said.