The man who is accused of ramming his car into a crowd of protesters Saturday during a Virginia white supremacist rally had flunked the U.S. Army’s basic training program two years prior, the Army said.
James Fields, 20, of Ohio, didn’t enter a plea on Monday during an appearance in his jail cell before a Virginia judge. He was denied bail. Fields was charged with second-degree murder for killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, while injuring scores more.
Army Lt. Col. LTC Paul Haverstick, a Pentagon spokesman, told Fox News that Fields had failed basic training, saying he was “released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015.”
“As a result he was never awarded a military occupational skill, nor was he assigned to a unit outside of basic training,” he said.
During the court appearance, Fields “appeared stoic and was looking down,” Fox reported. He also was not able to be represented by a public defender, according to Fox, because a relative of the public defender’s office was involved in the incident.
Fields confirmed he had no ties to the Charlottesville area, where the rally was held, saying he’s from Maumee, Ohio.
He was appointed a lawyer and his next court date is Aug. 25, according to Reuters.
On Sunday, his former high school history teacher, said that when Fields was a student, he “was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler.”
“I developed a good rapport with him and used that rapport to constantly try to steer him away from those beliefs to show clear examples—why that thinking is wrong, why their beliefs were evil, you know, things like that,” Derek Weimer told WCPO of Fields, adding that he was on antipsychotic medication.
Photos uploaded to the New York Daily News and other websites appear to show Fields holding a shield with the Vanguard America logo. The organization, on Twitter, denied he’s a member.
WARNING: Following video could be disturbing to some viewers.
The family of Heyer confirmed she was the lone fatality in the incident.
“She was there with her friends and she was trying to simply cross the street as the movement was breaking up that day and she was plowed down by a young man who was intent on spreading hate and thought hate would fix the world,” Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, told NBC News.
The mother of Fields told a local news outlet that she had told him to protest peacefully.
“I told him to be careful,” Samantha Bloom, who is a paraplegic, told the Toledo Blade. “[And] if they’re going to rally to make sure he’s doing it peacefully.”
Fields told her about the rally last week, she told the paper.
“I try to stay out of his political views,” she said. “I don’t get too involved.”
Fields had moved out of her house about “five or six months ago,” she added, saying they moved to Ohio from Kentucky about a year ago.