The Dodge Charger allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr.
Matthew Hatcher / Via Getty Images
The charge against the man accused of driving his car into a crowd of people protesting a group of white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia — killing a woman — was upgraded Thursday to first-degree murder.
James Alex Fields Jr., an apparent neo-Nazi, is charged with driving his Dodge Charger into the counter-protesters on Aug. 12, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 35 other people.
Fields was arrested after fleeing the scene and has been in jail ever since.
James Alex Fields Jr.
The 20-year-old had traveled from Maumee, Ohio to Charlottesville to attend the rally. Fields, who has a documented history of attending white supremacist rallies and posting neo-Nazi slogans to his Facebook page, was initially charged with second-degree murder, but on Thursday, Judge Robert Downer upgraded that to first-degree murder and confirmed nine other charges.
First-degree murder requires proof that the crime was premeditated, which can be just moments before the incident takes place. Second-degree murder requires malice in intent, but does not involve premeditation or planning.
Fields was in cuffs and said nothing during the preliminary court hearing, according to CBS 19. Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, was also in the courtroom, as were many victims.
During the court hearing, videos of Fields' Charger driving into the crowd and the chase afterward were shown, CBS 19 reported. In one video, people could be seen flying into the air after being hit.
A detective was asked by Field's attorney, Denise Lunsford, to recall that the suspect cried and sobbed when he learned someone had died in the accident. She also noted that Field asked that any ambulance that would be called for him be sent instead to aid the victims of the collision, CBS 19 reported.
The case is scheduled to go to a grand jury on Dec. 18.