Note: Today we have a guest post.
On August 12, 2017, James Fields’s car plowed into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer. This is well-known, but why did Fields run into the crowd (and the car in front of him)? Was Fields trying to exact vengeance on the crowd for ruining his day, or was he fleeing from a threat in a state of panic?
Fields has been charged with first degree murder, meaning the prosecution will argue that the killing was willful, deliberate, and premeditated. However, evidence has been uncovered indicating that Fields drove the car into the crowd because he feared for his life.
In this video, Dwayne Dixon–speaking on October 24, 2017 at the Carr Center at Harvard–claims to have waved off Fields with a rifle shortly before the crash. During a question and answer section, Dixon elaborates, stating that he “raised his rifle” at Fields in order to get him to “get the fuck out of here”.
In January 2018, Dixon posted a similar statement to his Facebook, which was later deleted.
Many people and cars were attacked that day in Charlottesville, including a car in the following video just 15 minutes before Fields’s crash.
The crowd of counterprotestors was hostile to Fields, and when he was arrested the police noticed a yellow stain on his shirt that smelled of urine. Fields may have feared that if he stopped among this crowd, he could end up like Reginald Denny.
Here is the full, 2 hour video of Dwayne Dixon – You Don’t Stand By and Let People Get Hurt: Antifascism after Charlottesville – posted by Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. From the video’s description:
What does this time of escalating political discord demand of us—our ethics, our social selves, and our bodies? How can communities protect themselves from racist terror when the state is indifferent or hostile? From the perspective of his experiences with Redneck Revolt in Charlottesville, VA, and Durham, NC, anthropologist Dwayne Dixon discusses armed self-defense and the need for a diversity of tactics in anti-fascist resistance.
DWAYNE DIXON is a lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. His research examines the role of media, urban space, and global imaginaries in the lives of young people in contemporary Japan. He is currently studying the ways small arms and their optics are incorporated into bodies through prosthetic practices with specific attention to the influence of the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on firearms theory and training. He is a long-time activist and part of the Durham 15 who are facing charges in North Carolina for removing a Confederate statue and for armed self-defense in the face of the KKK.
Why is Harvard inviting speakers to talk about violent opposition to “fascists”, particularly one who may have illegally contributed to Heyer’s death?
Under the Virginia law on Brandishing, “Pointing, holding, or brandishing a firearm… in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured,” is a class-1 misdemeanor. If it happens within 1,000 feet of a school, it’s a felony.
Raising his rifle at Fields in order to get Fields to “get the fuck out of there” (in fear) easily violates this law, and it would be a felony violation as Dixon appears to have encountered Fields near Market and 4th, within 2 blocks of a school and well within 1000 feet of it.
Less than two blocks from the apparent encounter with Dixon, Fields crashed into the crowd near 4th and Main.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, if in the process of committing a felony, you cause someone else to die, (whether you intended to kill them or not,) you have committed “felony homicide”:
There are further reports that Fields’s car was attacked by the crowd as it was driving on 4th street prior to crashing into the crowd; the banging of a flagpole onto his back bumper could have sounded like gunfire or else made him reasonably afraid he was about to be shot.
If Dixon actually pointed his rifle at Fields, and this caused Fields to fear for his life and accelerate away from the crowd that was bashing his car, crashing into Heather Heyer and the car in front of him, then Dixon committed felony homicide.
[EvX: I would like to add that if you have never had a panic attack, then you likely don’t know what it feels like. A true panic attack is not merely feeling panicky or anxious. They can induce uncontrollable physical reactions like screaming, fleeing, or hiding. For example, after hearing a loud bang, someone who survived a WWII POW camp might be found cowering under a car or desk with no idea how he got there.
So even if Fields had other options besides crashing into the people and car in front of him–like turning onto a side street or hitting the breaks–if he was truly panicking because he thought the antifa beating his car were about to shoot him, he may not have been mentally able to think or act on these possibilities.]
Why would Dixon go on camera and admit to facts that could lead to a murder charge? 5 possibilities:
- He’s lying and never actually pointed a gun at Fields. (Of course, it is a bad idea to lie and claim responsibility for a felony.)
- He doesn’t know the law and doesn’t realize that brandishing a weapon is a felony, nor does he know of felony homicide.
- He believes his brandishing of the rifle was justified self-defense
- He regards himself as a hero for chasing off a “fascist”
- His insufficient “theory of mind” makes him incapable of realizing that threatening Fields with a semi-automatic rifle made him afraid for his life. Dixon believes that Fields was maliciously looking for someone to harm, that he bravely chased Fields off, and then Fields attacked protesters elsewhere.
Interestingly, in order to convict someone of Felony Homicide, the state does not have to prove that the perpetrated intended to kill anyone. By contrast, in order to convict someone of First Degree Murder, the state must prove that they intended to murder someone–the law specifies thet the act must be “willful, deliberate, and premeditated.”
Further evidence against the killing being willful, deliberate, and premeditated lies in the Preliminary Hearing Transcript. The police officer testifies that Fields repeatedly said he was sorry and said that all medical assistance should be directed to people injured in the crowd rather than himself. Additionally, he appeared shocked and cried when he was told that someone died from the crash. I don’t think this is how people normally react when they intentionally kill someone.
Another point of evidence against the crash being intentional is the fact that Fields crashed into another car, which put him in danger of injury. The street is sloped, so Fields could presumably see the car below him. Had he wanted to injure protesters, he could have plowed into any of the many protesters who were better positioned.
As for Dixon, he is still a professor of “anthropology” at the University of North Carolina.
I would like to know what UNC and Harvard think about employing and endorsing a man who could be charged with felony brandishing and felony murder in the death of Heather Heyer–and why the Charlottesville police have not seen fit to investigate Dixon’s role in the crash.