Charlottesville police deployed only one cop on the street where a woman was run down and killed by a neo-Nazi during a counterprotest—and that lone cop, a school resource officer, left the scene minutes before the murder because she was afraid.
The revelation was part of a new independent review of the protests in the Virginia city that found law enforcement and city officials made a series of "disastrous" and critical mistakes that allowed the violence to spread during the alt-right rallies.
The critical review, which was done by former U.S. attorney Tim Heaphy, was released Friday—about four months after the rallies. The August protest was the most violent of a series of protests by white nationalists and neo-Nazis over the removal of Confederate statues. The Virginia rally attracted thousands of both armed white nationalists carrying Ku Klux Klan flags and counterprotesters trying to stop the gathering.
Tensions during the protest hit a high point when a black Dodge Challenger mowed down counterprotesters who were marching down a street.
Heather Heyer, 32, was killed in the crash, which left several others injured.
According to the report, Charlottesville Police Department placed a lone school resource officer at the intersection where the crash would later happen. As "angry" alt-right protesters neared, the officer, whose name was not released, "feared for her safety" and called for help from other officers. She was relieved from her post—but wasn't replaced.
"Unfortunately, CPD commanders did not replace her or make other arrangements to prevent traffic from traveling across the Downtown Mall on 4th Street," the review notes. "Rather than protecting people along the likely routes of travel, officers were stationed in Emancipation Park, behind metal barricades. This represents a horrible misalignment of resources that left our community unprotected."
A single wooden barricade was the only thing preventing traffic from traveling down the road where James Alex Fields Jr. drove his black Dodge Challenger, cops said.
"This vulnerability was exposed when James Fields drove his vehicle down the unprotected street into a large crowd of counter-protesters at the intersection of 4th Street SE and Water Street, killing Ms. Heyer," the review notes.
The report also reveals:
- The city's reaction to President Donald Trump's policies—the mayor declared it was the "capital of the resistance" to Trump's agenda—likely led to far-right groups targeting the city. After the rally, Trump went back and forth in his comments on the white nationalist groups—first blaming "both sides" and violent leftist protesters—then condemning the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.
- Law enforcement's planning and lack of coordination led to "disastrous results." Instead of facing off with protesters and stopping the violence when it reached its peaks, officers pulled back and retreated "to a protested area" where "they remained for over an hour as people in the large crowd fought."