Before moving to the Toledo area, James Alex Fields went to high school in suburban Cincinnati, where a former teacher describes him as a smart boy who was deeply interested in Adolf Hitler and white supremacy.
Fields, who’s accused of killing a woman and injuring 19 other people when he drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, was photographed earlier in the day apparently marching with a group of self-proclaimed fascists.
Fields has been charged with one count of second-degree murder and is due in court on Monday.
Derek Weimer taught Fields in three classes at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Kentucky. He says Fields was intelligent and didn't cause trouble. But he says the quiet boy was also deeply fascinated with Nazi Germany.
Weimer says he did his best to steer Fields away from those interests.
"Your mission as a teacher is really you're teaching these kids valuable fundamentals and skills to be successful in life,” Weimer says. “When you see something like what culminated in James Fields, it's a complete defeat."
Weimer says he used historical examples and events. He drew on stories of his own relatives who fought and died in World War Two.
"I would tell stories that would clearly let students know that Nazis and their beliefs and Adolf Hitler, they're evil,” Weimer says.
Fields did seem to back away from his interest from it his senior year, Weimer says.
"I thought maybe this is working, maybe he's realizing that things like Nazism, Adolf Hitler, they're bad things. It was promising."
Weimer says when he returns to the classroom, his former student will be on his mind.
"When something like this happens, you don't think 'Oh, it's my neighbor across the street or my son's friend in high school.' No, it's always somebody else or somewhere else. Well, here it is. He came from Boone County. He went to a good school. Lived in a good neighborhood. There were plenty of people around to try to guide him in the right direction. My first feeling is we failed. I failed."
Fields is charged with second degree murder, and the FBI is looking into whether civil rights charges should be filed.