Federal hate crime charges were filed on Wednesday against James Alex Fields Jr., the man accused of driving a car into a crowd of protestors at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. last August.
The Department of Justice announced that Fields would be charged with 30 crimes, including one count of a hate crime resulting in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and 28 other hate crimes, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he hoped the indictment would remind would-be criminals that crimes, particularly violent crimes, will be punished.
“Last summer’s violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation,” Sessions said in a statement. “Today’s indictment should send a clear message to every would-be criminal in America that we aggressively prosecute violent crimes of hate that threaten the core principles of our nation.”
Fields, who has been in custody since the rally last year, was described by a former teacher as having an interest in Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.
Last August, hundreds of protestors gathered near the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville to take part in a “Unite the Right” rally.
Attendees at the event chanted terms like “end immigration, one people, one nation,” but events took a more violent turn after counter-protestors arrived on the scene.
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) August 12, 2017
Approximately 1,000 law enforcement officers were sent to keep the peace and Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was forced to declare a state of emergency.
Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said that Fields’ decision to drive a car into the crowd was premeditated.
“The premeditated violence that our community experienced today was completely unacceptable,” Thomas said. “The situation escalated rapidly into violence and we had no choice but to deploy additional personnel from the Virginia State Police, the Virginia National Guard, to help disperse the crowd and move people safely through the streets.”
Fields also faces state charges for his behavior, including first-degree murder.