The white supremacist was obsessed with Hitler and had radical ideas on race long before police say he drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Virginia, killing a woman and injuring 19 others.
But the heart of 20-year-old James Fields wasn’t completely filled with hate. His mom says he had a black friend.
Fields, who was charged with second-degree murder in the Saturday attack in Charlottesville, Va., went to high school in Kentucky. Derek Weimer, his former history teacher, recalled Fields as a brilliant student, but also said he was “very misguided and disillusioned.”
“A lot of boys get interested in the Germans and Nazis because they’re interested in World War II,” said Weimer, who taught Fields at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Ky. “But James took it to another level.”
In the interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Weimer described Fields’ politics as “very much along the party lines of the neo-Nazi movement.”
Weimer, 45, said Fields filed a report as a freshman on Hitler that “just went beyond the pale.”
It was early evidence of his mindset.
“He was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler,” Weimer told Cincinnati’s WCPO news channel, adding that Fields had “radical ideas on race.”
Fields was ordered held without bail and is expected to appear in court via video on Monday. The Ohio man was arrested Saturday after ramming his prized Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people protesting the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 others were wounded, officials said.
Fields was photographed earlier in the day toting a shield with the Vanguard America logo, as well as the neo-Nazi group’s uniform: a white polo and khaki pants. Vanguard America denied he’s a member.
Weimer also suggested Fields was on anti-psychotic medicine, which may have created a “perfect storm” when paired with his racial views.
Fields’ family later settled in northwest Ohio, where his mother, Samantha Bloom, watched his cat while he took off for Charlottesville. Bloom told the Toledo Blade she wasn’t aware he was headed to the white nationalist rally, thinking only that it “had something to do with Trump.”
They’d moved to Ohio about a year earlier for Bloom’s work, and her son had moved out within the last six months, according to reports.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Bloom said she kept out of her son’s political views and suggested she didn’t think he was racist.
“He had an African-American friend so …,” Bloom told The Associated Press before her voice trailed off.
Federal authorities launched a civil rights investigation hours after the incident. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said U.S. Attorney Rick Mountcastle is leading the investigation.
“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Sessions said.