Ohio man charged in crash into Charlottesville crowd; 3 dead, 35 hurt

Published: Saturday, August 12, 2017 @ 5:00 PM
Updated: Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 12:30 AM

Ohio man charged with plowing car into Virginia rally crowd

An Ohio man is accused of driving into a crowd of people, killing a 32-year-old Virginia woman and injuring 35 others.

  • Suspect identified as James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee
  • Fields faces second-degree murder, other charges
  • Woman killed is Heather Heyer of Virginia
  • 2 troopers die in helicopter crash linked to incident

UPDATE @ 12:30 a.m. (Aug. 13)

A woman who identified herself as the mother of James Alex Fields Jr. said she was aware her son was headed to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

Samantha Bloom said her son sent a text message last week that he had time off work and was going to the rally. Bloom told her son “to be careful” and peaceful, she said.

She and Fields had just moved to the Toledo area from Florence, Kentucky, not far from Cincinnati, she said.

RELATED: Wright State University men’s soccer team returns from Charlottesville, takes to the field

Fields is charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit and run attended failure to stop with injury, the Charlottesville Police Department announced Saturday. He is being held in the Albermarle-Charlottesville County Regional Jail for the deadly crash at Fourth and Water streets in the city that claimed the life of 32-year-old Heather Hayer and injured 35 others.

RELATED: 3 dead, 35 injured after ‘Unite the Right’ rally sparks violence in Charlottesville

On Saturday, Virginia State Police also connected the deaths of two troopers who died in a helicopter crash to the rally. Police said Lt. Jay Cullen and trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed in the crash that happened outside Charlottesville a few hours after the car plowed into the group of people.

The organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville told the Associated Press that the man who drove into the group of counter-protesters “did the wrong thing.” He also criticized law enforcement’s response to the event and its ability to control chaos to allow free speech.

UPDATE @ 9:10 p.m.

A 20-year-old Ohio man is identified as the suspect who rammed a car into a crowd of people Saturday afternoon as they dispersed in Charlottesville.

The suspect is James Alex Fields Jr., of Maumee, Ohio, according to Superintendent Martin Kumer with the Albermarle-Charlottesville County Regional Jail, CNN reported. Fields is held on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death, CNN reported.

A 32-year-old woman who was crossing the street was killed and 19 people were injured, the Associated Press confirmed with hospital officials.

The car allegedly driven by Fields around 2 p.m. plowed into the crowd of counter-protesters of the “Unite the Right” rally, which opposed the state’s decision to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Ohio plates on car that plowed Virginia crowd

FIRST REPORT

A car that plowed into a group of people Saturday afternoon after crowds dispersed in Charlottesville has Ohio plates.

One person was killed and 19 injured when the car that appears to be a gray Dodge Challenger with Ohio plates crashed into a crowd of protesters leaving a “Unite the Right” rally. Officials declared the rally an “unlawful assembly” and shut it down before it began because of clashes between protesters and counter-protesters.

Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The rally was 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. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)(AP)

The driver, whose name has not been released, is in custody, according to state officials.

The Ohio license plate shows a county code of 48 in the bottom left; this corresponds to Lucas County in northwest Ohio, according to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Toledo is the largest city in the county, which has a border with Lake Erie.

The protest was sparked by the state’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The Christmas Killings: Dayton’s worst crime spree

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 5:30 PM

In December, 1992, downtown Dayton was filled with holiday decorations and activities. There was the Christmas tree lighting on Courthouse Square and across the street, the Dayton Arcade had reopened temporarily with pop-up shops and eateries for the holiday season. As people shopped and celebrated, they would have never imaged what was about to happen. 

A band of teenagers were looking for trouble. Laura Taylor, Marvallous Keene, Heather Matthews and Demarcus Smith called themselves "The Downtown Posse." They were estranged from their families and looking for trouble. 

"Let's get some drama in our lives," Taylor, a 16-year-old runaway, said to the group. 

On Christmas Eve, they began the worst crime spree in Dayton history. The first victim was Joseph Wilkerson. The girls lured their way into his Prescott Avenue home promising sex, and the 34-year old General Motors worker was shot and killed. The posse then partied in Wilkerson's house over the next three days. They ate his food and drove his cars while he lay dead in a bedroom. 

>> PHOTOS: Infamous killing spree shook the community 25 years ago

That same night, they shot Danita Gullette, 18, who was using a pay phone outside a neighborhood market in West Dayton. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police said Gullette was robbed of her gym shoes, jacket and book bag. 

"All she said was, 'Don't shoot me' and they shot her anyway," said Rhonda Gullette, the victim's sister. "She gave them everything that she had. I just wish that they would have spared my sister." 

Danita Gullette, 18, was killed while she stood at a pay phone on Neal Avenue in 1992. Her murder was part of a spree over the Christmas holiday weekend in Dayton that left 6 dead and injured two. COURTESY OF GULLETTE FAMILY

On Christmas day, the body of 19-year-old Richard Maddox was discovered in a car. He had been shot in the head. Detectives later found out that Maddox was the former boyfriend of Laura Taylor. Jeffrey Wright was also shot that day outside a home on Yuma Place. Despite, 4 bullets, he survived. 

The posse went into the Short Stop Mini Mart on December 26, and shot Sarah Abraham who was working in a family business that holiday weekend. The 38-year-old mother died 5 days later in the hospital. A store customer who was shot, Jones Pettus, survived . 

At first, Dayton homicide detectives did not know that these crimes were all connected. 

"Really the first thing that made the connection for us was the ammunition," said retired Dayton Homicide Detective Doyle Burke. "Then you start to worry and you figure out that we've got a person or persons that are probably not going to stop." 

Burke said they had no idea who they were looking for. 

"The fact that it was truly stranger on stranger crime, which is the most difficult homicide to solve…there was not even a motive," Burke said. 

Later on December 26, former Dayton Police Sgt. John Huber, spotted a stolen car on Kumler Avenue. At the time, he did not know that he was stopping Dayton's spree killers. 

"They all cooperated and put their hands up. I was later to find out from the detectives that Laura Taylor told Marvallous Keene to shoot me and he wouldn't.," said Huber. 

After the four members of the posse were behind bars, Taylor got a visit from a local minister who was concerned that she was only sixteen and accused of such terrible crimes. During their visit, Taylor told him about two more victims. Police found the bodies of Wendy Cottrill, 16 and Marvin Washington, 19, in a city-owned gravel pit on Richley Avenue. Taylor said they were shot because the group thought that they would snitch to the police. 

Keene confessed and was sentenced to death. After 17 years of appeals, he was executed in 2009. The other three got life prison sentences. During a prison interview in 2000, Heather Matthews explained why she got into in the crime spree. 

"I wanted to be like them. I wanted to do what they was doing," Matthews said. 

Detective Burke said that once the killing started, he believes they were all willing participants. 

"They enjoyed it. They lived it. It made them somebody," Burke said. 

Rhonda Gullette admits that even after 25 years, the holidays are very difficult. 

"I grieve for my family but I continue to grieve for the other victim's families and also the people who are incarcerated," said Gullette. "Anybody's life can either go to the left or the right, so I do, I think about them very often." 

Gullette said the murder of her sister had a huge impact on her life. The crime led to the break-up of her engagement, the loss of a child and her mother. 

"Six years later my mother passed away prematurely," said Gullette. "My mother passed away at 51-year's old and she passed away because of grief. My mother absolutely died of a broken heart." 

Gullette is now an advocate for victim's rights and is working on her master's degree. She said she gets through the holidays by serving her church and feeding the homeless. 

John Huber, retired from the Dayton Police Department, is the Public Safety Director at Sinclair Community College. Doyle Burke is Chief Investigator for the Warren County Coroner and has written a book about the homicide cases that he has investigated, including this one. 

A book called, "The Christmas Killings," was written by retired Dayton Police Officer Steve Grismer, Detective Dennis Murphy and Dr. Judith Monseur. Both books will be published early next year.

Bullets aimed at officers' chests stopped by vests, officials say

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 3:24 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 4:13 PM

St. Louis Police Officers Saved By Bulletproof Vests

A man opened fire on two police officers who were 15 feet away from him on Thursday morning, striking them with bullets that would have hit their chests if not for their bulletproof vests, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

The vests might have saved the officers’ lives, KTVI reported. The pair was conscious and speaking Thursday after the shooting in Bellefontaine Neighbors, according to the news station. They were released from a hospital on Thursday afternoon after getting treatment for their injuries, St. Louis County police said.

Bellefontaine Neighbors Mayor Bob Doerr told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the injured officers were a 44-year-old male sergeant who has worked in law enforcement for “half his life” and a 25-year-old female police officer who was hired in 2014.

"They were wearing their bulletproof vests, so thank God," Doerr old the Post-Dispatch

The officers were injured around 7:30 a.m. after being called Thursday morning to a home in north St. Louis County where a man was suspected of having fired multiple shots on Wednesday night, KTVI reported. Police left the home Wednesday after finding no evidence to continue an investigation, St. Louis County police Sgt. Shawn McGuire told KMOV.

He told the news station that a neighbor called authorities Thursday morning after spotting the man who was suspected of firing the shots. Officers said they found the person walking in the area and tried to talk to him, but St. Louis County police said they were unsuccessful.

“Officers tried to take the suspect into custody, at which time the suspect resisted arrest,” police said. “One of the officers attempted to use a Taser to control the suspect, but was unsuccessful.”

Authorities said the man then pulled out a gun and fired shots at the officers’ chests.

One of the officers returned fire, but it was not immediately clear if the man was hit. He ran into a home, where he barricaded himself for hours before police officers were able to take him into custody Thursday afternoon.

Witness Steve Jones told KMOV he spotted police officers Thursday morning in the front yard of a home on Bellefontaine Road.

“All of a sudden, I (see) ... Bellefontaine officers trying to take this man to the ground, and the next thing I know, this man jumps up off the ground and I see pepper spray being deployed from the officers,” Jones told KMOV. “This man backs up about 15 feet and starts shooting.”

He said he heard several gunshots and saw the officers fall to the ground. He told KMOV he called 911.

Police did not immediately identify the man accused of firing shots at police or either of the injured officers.

Bullets aimed at officers' chests stopped by vests

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 6:35 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 4:13 PM

Police officers work the scene where two St. Louis County officers were shot and a man barricaded himself inside a home on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in the St. Louis County town of Bellefontaine Neighbors, Mo. Officers are trying to negotiate his surrender. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
Robert Cohen/AP
Police officers work the scene where two St. Louis County officers were shot and a man barricaded himself inside a home on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in the St. Louis County town of Bellefontaine Neighbors, Mo. Officers are trying to negotiate his surrender. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)(Robert Cohen/AP)

A man opened fire on two police officers who were 15 feet away from him on Thursday morning, striking them with bullets that would have hit their chests if not for their bulletproof vests, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

The vests might have saved the officers’ lives, KTVI reported. The pair was conscious and speaking Thursday after the shooting in Bellefontaine Neighbors, according to the news station. They were released from a hospital on Thursday afternoon after getting treatment for their injuries, St. Louis County police said.

Bellefontaine Neighbors Mayor Bob Doerr told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the injured officers were a 44-year-old male sergeant who has worked in law enforcement for “half his life” and a 25-year-old female police officer who was hired in 2014.

"They were wearing their bulletproof vests, so thank God," Doerr old the Post-Dispatch

The officers were injured around 7:30 a.m. after being called Thursday morning to a home in north St. Louis County where a man was suspected of having fired multiple shots on Wednesday night, KTVI reported. Police left the home Wednesday after finding no evidence to continue an investigation, St. Louis County police Sgt. Shawn McGuire told KMOV.

He told the news station that a neighbor called authorities Thursday morning after spotting the man who was suspected of firing the shots. Officers said they found the person walking in the area and tried to talk to him, but St. Louis County police said they were unsuccessful.

“Officers tried to take the suspect into custody, at which time the suspect resisted arrest,” police said. “One of the officers attempted to use a Taser to control the suspect, but was unsuccessful.”

Authorities said the man then pulled out a gun and fired shots at the officers’ chests.

One of the officers returned fire, but it was not immediately clear if the man was hit. He ran into a home, where he barricaded himself for hours before police officers were able to take him into custody Thursday afternoon.

Witness Steve Jones told KMOV he spotted police officers Thursday morning in the front yard of a home on Bellefontaine Road.

“All of a sudden, I (see) ... Bellefontaine officers trying to take this man to the ground, and the next thing I know, this man jumps up off the ground and I see pepper spray being deployed from the officers,” Jones told KMOV. “This man backs up about 15 feet and starts shooting.”

He said he heard several gunshots and saw the officers fall to the ground. He told KMOV he called 911.

Police did not immediately identify the man accused of firing shots at police or either of the injured officers.

News photographer shot by Clark County deputy sues

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 5:28 PM

Body camera released of Ohio news photographer shot by deputy

The news photographer shot by a Clark County deputy in New Carlisle in September has filed a federal lawsuit against the deputy, Clark County and the city of New Carlisle.

Andy Grimm filed the lawsuit Thursday seeking damages and the suit calls the shooting “excessive use of force and violation of Mr. Grimm’s constitutional and common law rights.”

RELATED: Clark County deputy back to work after shooting news photographer

The lawsuit doesn’t state a specific amount of money Grimm is seeking to cover attorney fees, injuries, damages, losses and to adequately punish and deter the conduct alleged but says it will be more than $75,000.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations is handling the investigation into the deputy-involved shooting. The bureau didn’t return a phone call seeking the status of that investigation on Thursday. The sheriff’s office will do an internal investigation into Shaw’s actions after the state’s investigation is completed.

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Grimm says in the suit he wasn’t a threat to anyone the night he was shot by Clark County Deputy Jacob Shaw. Body camera footage obtained by the Springfield News-Sun appears to show Shaw was conducting a traffic stop when he fired at Grimm.

The lawsuit also alleges Grimm’s wife, Melanie Grimm and KBA News LLC, which publishes the New Carlisle News, have suffered due to the shooting.

“Plantiff KBA News, LLC asserts loss of business profits as local law enforcement agencies have retaliated against the business in response to the events of Sept. 4,” the lawsuit says.

DETAILS: Dole contests OSHA violations, $82K in penalties at Springfield plant

Clark County Sheriff Office Chief Deputy Travis Russell declined to comment on behalf of the sheriff’s office Thursday. New Carlisle City Manager Randy Bridge also declined comment.

Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment Thursday.

Shaw returned back to work in the jail in October.