Was Driver Acting in Self-Defense?

Q: Does a video corroborate a belief by Charlottesville police officers that the driver in the fatal car attack at a white nationalist rally “was not acting maliciously”?

A: No. Police have charged James Alex Fields Jr. with multiple offenses, including second-degree murder and “aggravated malicious wounding.”

FULL ANSWER

The Department of Memes, which describes itself as focusing on “right-wing politics,” purports to have video that corroborates its previous story that “police officers in Charlottesville believed the driver was not acting maliciously, suggesting he was scared by the protesters on every side of his vehicle and he did not know what to do.”

That doesn’t jibe with official police statements about what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, where James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, was accused of driving his car into counterprotesters at an Aug. 12 white nationalist rally.

Here’s what the website wrote:

Department of Memes, Aug. 13: Citizen researchers have slowed the video down and spotted an African American individual hitting the car with what appears to be a baseball bat before the suspect hit the crowd with his vehicle.

One such video posted to Streamable shows the driver slowing down, then accelerating quickly after his rear bumper is struck with the baseball bat.

The website goes on to say that a “thorough examination” of the incident “seems to suggest the driver was behaving normally until the vehicle was struck with the bat.”

The Department of Memes story was picked up by several conservative websites, including one from commentator and former congressman Allen B. West.

In the video, it does appear that a pedestrian struck the back of Fields’ car with an object. But it isn’t clear from that video or others shared by the media that the driver had slowed, or that he was “behaving normally” prior to that. A longer version of the same video clip shows the car speeding down the street toward the crowd.

A day before it published the video, the Department of Memes on Aug. 12 posted a story that claimed: “Local police think he was terrified of leftist protesters who were blocking traffic in the street when he accelerated his vehicle into the crowd, fatally injuring a yet unidentified heavyset 32-year-old woman.”

That report was based on a tweet — later deleted — from journalist Taylor Lorenz of The Hill, who in the hours after the incident wrote, “Anyway several police officers at the station here think the guy running people down wasn’t malicious. They said the driver was scared.”
Lorenz shortly after tweeted, “Just wanna clarify that 2 officers who I spoke to who said act might not have been intentional were not on the scene. Had not seen video yet.”

Lorenz also tweeted, “I’m at the police station now interviewing officers and other witnesses. Every witness here claims the act was deliberate.”

A day later, Lorenz explained that she deleted her tweet saying several officers believed the driver “wasn’t malicious” because “apparently a bunch of 4chan trolls are taking it out of context and mischaracterizing this info.”

Indeed, police initially charged Fields with one count of second-degree murder for causing the death of Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville. Nineteen others suffered injuries in the wreck. In addition to second-degree murder, Fields was charged with three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run. Five additional felony counts were added later in the week, including two more counts of malicious wounding and three counts of aggravated malicious wounding.

According to Charlottesville police, a Dodge Challenger driven by Fields sped down Fourth Street and caused a chain-reaction accident that resulted in vehicles being pushed into a crowd of pedestrians.

Charlottesville police, Aug. 13: The three-vehicle crash occurred on 4th Street. A Dodge Challenger was traveling south on 4th Street at a high rate of speed when it rear-ended a sedan headed south on 4th Street. The impact of that crash pushed the sedan into the minivan in front of it. The minivan had slowed for a crowd a people crossing through the intersection. The impact of the crash pushed the vehicles into the crowd of pedestrians. The Dodge Challenger fled the scene, but was located and stopped a short time later by Charlottesville Police.

According to Virginia code, aggravated malicious wounding occurs if someone wounds another person or “by any means causes bodily injury, with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill.” In other words, by its very definition, the charge against Fields means police believe Fields acted with willful intent to injure or kill.

Sources

Department of Memes website. “VIDEO: Protesters Attacked Charlottesville Driver’s Car With Baseball Bat.” 13 Aug 2017.

Department of Memes. “About” page. Accessed 21 Aug 2017.

Right Alerts. “VIDEO: The Real Story About What Happened In Charlottesville; Media Blackout.” 15 Aug 2017.

Patriot Journal. “Look What Everyone Missed In Charlottesville ‘Rampage,’ This Changes EVERYTHING.” 15 Aug 2017.

Wilburn, Derrick. “New SHOCK theory emerges about Charlottesville driver’s ‘motive’ and it’s blowing MINDS.” Allen B. West website. 14 Aug 2017.

Bromwich, Jonah Engel, and Blinder, Alan. “What We Know About James Alex Fields, Driver Charged in Charlottesville Killing.” New York Times. 13 Aug. 2017.

Fox News Tweet. “NEW VIDEO: Car runs into crowd during #Charlottesville protests. http://fxn.ws/2fBgX5n.” 12 Aug 2017.

Department of Memes website. “Charlottesville Driver Wasn’t A White Supremacist, He Was Terrified – Report.” 12 Aug 2017.

Lorenz, Taylor. “Just wanna clarify that 2 officers who I spoke to who said act might not have been intentional were not on the scene. Had not seen video yet.” Twitter. 12 Aug 2017.

Lorenz, Taylor. “I’m at the police station now interviewing officers and other witnesses. Every witness here claims the act was deliberate.” Twitter. 12 Aug 2017.

Lorenz, Taylor. “FYI I’m deleting this tweet b/c apparently a bunch of 4chan trolls are taking it out of context and mischaracterizing this info.” Twitter. 13 Aug 2017.

City of Charlottesville. “Update on Fatal Charlottesville Traffic Crash.” Twitter. 13 Aug 2017.

Virginia Code. § 18.2-51.2 Aggravated malicious wounding; penalty.

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False

Claims video corroborates its story that “police officers in Charlottesville believed the driver was not acting maliciously.”

departmentofmemes.com
Sunday, August 13, 2017

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