Man charged with second-degree murder for car attack was kicked out of Army

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

It’s a tragedy sparking heated debate in newsrooms and around water coolers across this nation. Who is to blame for one man’s hate: the president or the suspect?

This past Saturday, the world watched as James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old, who traveled to Virginia from Ohio, plowed into a crowd of activists protesting a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Even as the administration immediately denounced Fields’ hatred, the media jumped on to attack the president saying his words were not strong enough. But is Fields’ hatred new, or is it something that’s been brewing in him long before Trump ever took office?

As the media goes searching for answers about Fields, the monster inside is becoming clearly evident.

Fields, according to The Daily Beast reports, reported for Army basic training in August 2015. Even back then, something was wrong.

“He was released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015,” Army Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson tells The Daily Beast. “As a result he was never awarded a military occupational skill nor was he assigned to a unit outside of basic training.”

Not only is Fields someone who couldn’t meet Army standards, it appears he’s someone who could never meet society’s standards.

This photo provided by the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail shows James Alex Fields Jr., who was charged with second-degree murder and other counts after authorities say he rammed his car into a crowd of protesters Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va., where a white supremacist rally took place. (Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail via AP)

An examination of his high school days shows he’s a man in love with white supremacy and Nazi ideals.

“It was obvious that he had this fascination with Nazism and a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler,” according to Derek Weimer, a history teacher at Randall K. Cooper High School in Kentucky. “He had white supremacist views. He really believed in that stuff.”

According to The Washington Post, Fields was a student of hate.

Fields’ research project into the Nazi military during a class titled “America’s Modern Wars” was well written, Weimer tells The Post, but it appeared to be a “big love fest for the German military and the Waffen-SS.”

The teacher tells The Post he tried to dissuade Fields from his skewed line of thinking by pointing out the ugly truth of Hitler’s reign through historical facts and academic reasoning.

“This was something that was growing in him,” Weimer tells The Post. “I admit I failed. I tried my best. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.”

The teacher also says although the military says he failed to meet standards, he feels Fields was rejected by the military due to a history of mental illness.

“Senior year, he was real gung-ho on joining the Army and — toward the end of the year found out that he was denied and it was because of a history of anti-psychotic, you know, medication that was prescribed,” the teacher tells The New York Post.

A former classmate said Fields’ racism dates back long before Saturday, recalling repeated incidents at Ockerman Middle School in Florence, Ky., where “he would scream obscenities, whether it be about Hitler or racial slurs.”

Caitlin Robinson tells The New York Times that Fields — who stood among a group of Nazi-inspired fascists before Saturday’s deadly attack — was “exceptionally odd and an outcast to be sure.”

“He wasn’t afraid to make you feel unsafe,” Robinson said.

Fields’ mother told the Associated Press Saturday that she didn’t talk to him about his political views. She said he had mentioned to her that he was going to a rally, but said they never discussed the details.

“I didn’t know it was white supremacists,” Samantha Bloom said. “I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a supremacist.”

Fields is accused of killing Heather D. Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville. Her friend tells The Post Heyer went to Saturday’s protest to stand against bigotry and hatred.

“She died for a reason,” said Felicia Correa, a longtime friend. “I don’t see any difference in her or a soldier who died in war. She, in a sense, died for her country. She was there standing up for what was right.”

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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