CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The driver charged with killing a woman at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville was previously accused of beating his mother and threatening her with a knife, according to police records released Monday.
Authorities say 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters on Saturday in Charlottesville, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The records from the Florence Police Department in Kentucky show the man's mother had called police in 2011. Fields' mother, Samantha Bloom, told police he stood behind her wielding a 12-inch knife. Bloom is disabled and uses a wheelchair.
In another incident in 2010, Bloom said that Fields smacked her in the head and locked her in the bathroom after she told him to stop playing video games. Bloom told officers Fields was on medication to control his temper.
Earlier Monday, Fields was denied bond after the public defender's office said it couldn't represent him because a relative of someone in the office was injured in Saturday's protest. The judge was forced to find a local attorney to fill in, Charles Weber, who did not immediately respond to phone messages. No one answered the door at his office Monday.
Fields was not present in the courtroom but appeared via video monitor dressed in a black-and-white striped uniform. Seated, he answered questions from the judge with simple responses of "Yes, sir" when asked if he understood what was being explained to him. Fields also replied "No, sir" when asked if he had ties to the community of Charlottesville.
Judge Robert Downer set an Aug. 25 hearing for Fields, who has been charged with second-degree murder and other counts.
Fields was fascinated with Nazism, idolized Adolf Hitler, and had been singled out in the 9th grade by officials at the Randall K. Cooper high school in Union, Kentucky, for his "deeply held, radical" convictions on race, his former high school teacher Derek Weimer said Sunday.
Keegan McGrath, 18, who said he was roommates with Fields on a class trip to Europe in 2015, said Fields referred to Germany as "the Fatherland," had no interest in being in France, and refused to interact with the French.
"He just really laid on about the French being lower than us and inferior to us," McGrath told the AP on Monday.
McGrath challenged Fields on his beliefs, and the animosity between them grew so heated that it came to a boil at dinner on their second day. He said he went home after three or four days because he said he couldn't handle being in a room with Fields.
The incident shocked McGrath because he had been in German class with Fields for two unremarkable years.
"He was just a normal dude" most of the time, although he occasionally made "dark" jokes that put his class on edge, including one "off-hand joke" about the Holocaust, McGrath said.
McGrath said that Fields wasn't ostracized and doesn't believe Fields deserves sympathy.
"He had friends, he had people who would chat with him, it wasn't like he was an outcast."
Weimer described Fields as an "average" student, but with a keen interest in military history, Hitler, and Nazi Germany.
"Once you talked to James for a while, you would start to see that sympathy toward Nazism, that idolization of Hitler, that belief in white supremacy," Weimer said. "It would start to creep out."
The violence in Charlottesville also was blamed for the deaths of two Virginia State Police officers who were killed when a helicopter crashed during the large-scale police response.