CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – James Alex Fields, Jr., texted his mother Friday to say he had dropped his cat off at her Monclova Township home so he could go to an “alt-right” rally in Virginia.
It shocked Samantha Bloom that the 20-year-old Maumee man is now accused of plowing into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday in a Virginia college town – killing one person, hurting at least two dozen more and ratcheting up tension in a violent confrontation.
She had returned from dinner Saturday evening unaware that her son was involved and had not yet been contacted by authorities.
“I told him to be careful,” she said of her son’s participation at the rally. “[And] if they’re going to rally to make sure he’s doing it peacefully.”
It didn’t appear that happened, she said tearfully. Mr. Fields is charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of an accident that resulted in a death. He in custody at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
He had told her about the rally last week, but didn’t offer details about its nature, Ms. Bloom said.
“I thought it had something to do with [President] Trump,” she said.
“I try to stay out of his political views,” she said. “I don’t get too involved.”
Mr. Fields had moved out of her home five or six months ago to his own Maumee apartment, Ms. Bloom said. She declined to give the address. Ms. Bloom said they moved to northwest Ohio from Florence, Ky., about a year ago for her job.
Along the quiet street where his mother lives, neighbors living in the colorful one-story, conjoined units said they didn’t know much about the 20-year-old.
Laurie Schoonmaker, who lives across the street from Ms. Bloom, said she hadn’t seen his car in months, but when he was there he often blasted polka music from the car.
On May 25 he was charged by the Maumee Police Department with having expired or unlawful license plates on the same car connected to Saturday’s attack. He was found guilty of the traffic offense in June.
Bob Rose, 62, who lives two doors down from Ms. Bloom, said he never spoke to the man.
“It’s shocking to know it’s that close to you,” he said.
Mr. Rose said he had seen a vehicle matching the silver Dodge’s description at the house and “might have waved,” but not much more.
“I’ve never spoken with the gentleman, I don’t know anything about him,” he said. “You just never know. Until you get the whole story, you can assume what you want. Was he there to cause mayhem? Was he a white supremacist? I don’t know.”
If he does hold extremist views, Mr. Rose said, “I don’t want to know him.”
Mr. Rose expressed concern the neighborhood would be swarmed with media and the curious public. Even as he spoke to reporters Saturday evening, cars slowed when they drove past.
“This is what I’m afraid of, sightseers,” he said.
Maumee Mayor Richard Carr said after he heard the news, he contacted a Maumee police lieutenant, who mentioned the man’s earlier traffic violation in the city. The last Maumee authorities knew of him, the man still lived in Monclova Township, the mayor said.
“It’s not attention obviously we want. It’s very sad,” he said. “He’s not been found guilty yet, but just the association that comes with the name of the city across the nation or the world, if those are the actions, it certainly doesn’t reflect the people of the area.”
Ohio officials also denounced the violence. Gov. John Kasich tweeted that “There is no place in America for this violence and vicious hatred coming from white nationalist, KKK & neo-nazi groups.”
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) wrote: “The tragedy in Charlottesville this afternoon was domestic terrorism. We must all condemn hatred and white nationalism,” and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown tweeted, “I stand with my Republican colleague.”