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1 dead, 19 injured after car plows into protesters in Charlottesville

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said "violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice"

Last Updated Aug 12, 2017 11:24 PM EDT

One person was killed and 19 others were injured Saturday when a car plowed into a group of protesters in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, hours after police broke up violent confrontations ahead of a scheduled rally of white nationalists.

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of failing to stop after an accident that resulted in a death, Col. Martin Kumer, superintendent of Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, told CBS News.

The FBI and the Department of Justice said Saturday night that they would be opening an investigation into the deadly crash. In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Session said "violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice."

"The FBI has been supporting state and local authorities throughout the day," Sessions said. "U.S. Attorney Rick Mountcastle has commenced a federal investigation and will have the full support of the Department of Justice. Justice will prevail."

The deceased victim was a 32-year-old woman who was crossing the street, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said Saturday night, adding that police are in the process of notifying the next of kin.

Five of the injured were listed in critical condition -- the worst state -- and four others were in serious condition. Six were in fair condition, and four others were in good condition, authorities said Saturday.

Video of the incident showed a gray Dodge Charger plowing into counter-protesters who were marching through the city's shopping district. The force of the collision hurled several people into the air. Bystanders could be seen running in every direction while others stood by screaming for help.

Footage from another angle showed the car speeding in reverse in an attempt to flee the scene.

A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP

Those injured in the crash were transported to the University of Virginia (UVA) Medical Center, a hospital spokesperson told CBS News.

A dozen medics were seen carting the injured back and forth on stretchers at the scene.

"I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here. I urge all people of good will -- go home," Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said on Twitter.

White nationalists clashed with police and counter-protesters hours before the collision in Charlottesville. Alt-right activists and white supremacists planned to protest the city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the city's Emancipation Park, but police broke up the demonstration before it began after fighting broke out.

First responders tend to several people injured when a car plowed through a crowd of counter-demonstrators marching in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

President Trump condemned the violence in remarks Saturday afternoon.

"We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides," he said from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Mr. Trump said he spoke with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe over the phone and agreed "that the hate and division must stop and it must stop right now."

He added, "What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order, and the protection of innocent lives."

But Mr. Trump's comments drew the ire of some fellow Republicans.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), leader of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2018, criticized Mr. Trump's speech and urged the president to "call evil by its name."

"Mr. President -- we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism," Gardner tweeted.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), also called on Mr. Trump to call the incident a "terror attack by white supremacists."

Later, Mr. Trump tweeted his condolences to the victims. "Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia," he wrote.

The car that allegedly plowed through a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Win McNamee/Getty

McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency in the city early Saturday to aid the state's response to the violence. 

"I have a message to all the white supremacists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend you are patriots, but you are anything but a patriot," McAuliffe said Saturday night.

"You came here today to hurt people and you did hurt people. My message is clear: we are stronger than you. You have made our commonwealth stronger. You will not succeed. There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America," McAuliffe added.

Jason Kessler, the organizer behind the "Unite the Right" rally, said he plans to sue the city for violating a court order permitting the rally to be held in the park.

"Our First Amendment rights were violated today," Kessler said by phone before the car crash. He said the city of Charlottesville and McAuliffe violated the court ruling because they "didn't like the outcome."

A car plows into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017.

Ryan M. Kelly, The Daily Progress

Some protesters who came for the "Unite the Right" rally were armed and dressed in military-like clothing, while others wore shirts with Nazi symbols and quotes from Adolf Hitler. Another read "diversity is just a genocidal scam."

Saturday's confrontation came after a large group of torch-bearing white nationalists marched through the UVA campus Friday night, after a judge issued a ruling allowing Saturday's protest to move forward.

UVA cancelled all scheduled events planned for Saturday citing "ongoing public safety concerns," but announced that the college's medical center would remain open.

"The University is monitoring the developments in Charlottesville and continues to coordinate with state and local law enforcement," the school said in a statement.

55 Photos

White supremacist rallies in Va. lead to violence

Demonstrators displaying Nazi salutes and chants stir tensions in Charlottesville, erupting in deadly clashes with counter-demonstrators

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