CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Reuters) - The woman killed by a car at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, looked lifeless after being struck, the rescue worker who tried to save her life testified on Monday at the trial of the man charged with murdering her.
The woman, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was “pulseless,” with no heartbeat or breath, Charlottesville fire Captain Steward “Nick” Barrell, a paramedic, testified in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
The testimony launched the second week of the murder trial of James Fields, in which Virginia prosecutors are seeking to prove that the death of Heyer was premeditated.
The incident, which killed Heyer and injured 19 others, capped two days of chaos and violence in August 2017 when hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a Confederate statue from a public park, while others counterprotested.
Fields, 21, faces 10 criminal counts, including first-degree murder and malicious assault. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Fields also faces 30 federal hate crimes charges, for which he could face the death penalty if convicted. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in July.
Fields’ attorney, John Hill, in his opening statement last week said his client acted in self-defense after being “scared to death” by the mass of people around his car.
Another witness, Melissa Elliott, told jurors she “heard the crash and we heard screaming and yelling” and ducked into the alcove of a nearby store to try to avoid being hit when the Dodge Charger driven by Fields plowed into the crowd. Then she said she saw the car again.
“It flew backward as fast as it could off the mall and out of sight,” she said on Monday.
Fields left his home in Ohio to join the “Unite the Right” weekend rally in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, that began with a torchlit march on Aug. 11, 2017.
Fields routinely promoted racist ideologies on social media, including expressing support for Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust, according to federal prosecutors.
Responding after the violence, U.S. President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides,” drawing criticism from Democrats and fellow Republicans for equating the white nationalists with those who demonstrated against them.
Hours before driving into the crowd, Fields was photographed carrying a shield with the emblem of a far-right group, although the group later denied he was a member.
Writing by Peter Szekely; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis