A slideshow is attached to this story that features violent images from Aug. 12, 2017, that was discussed in court Friday morning.
The fifth day of James Alex Fields Jr.’s trial brought more emotional testimony as prosecutors continued to pick away at a self-defense theory in the first-degree murder case.
Most of the testimony again came from victims of the Aug. 12, 2017, car attack. Two members of the Charlottesville Police Department also discussed Fields’ actions, and a former Daily Progress photographer described the attack itself.
Star Peterson, whose leg was crushed, at first smiled as she gave her testimony. However, when faced with photographs of her injuries, she began crying.
As the gray Dodge Challenger struck the crowd, Peterson said she saw the body of Heather Heyer fly through the air.
“I remember seeing her eyes and thinking that’s what someone’s eyes look like when they’re dead,” Peterson said.
Wednesday Bowie, a counter-protester whose pelvis was broken in six places, said she saw a flash of silver go by her and then heard a “loud booming noise.”
Not struck initially, she moved toward the crash when Fields started backing up the vehicle. Bowie said she was slammed into another vehicle and briefly lost consciousness.
Later in her testimony, defense attorney John Hill asked Bowie about the morning’s events and violence. Hill said during opening statements that the violent atmosphere in Charlottesville that day caused his client to be afraid for his safety.
“The violence I saw was almost exclusively perpetuated by those who were in the park,” she said.
Hill did not question her further.
The drivers of the two vehicles hit by the Challenger, Lizete Short and Tadrint Washington, also spoke Friday. Both were riding with family members, and they described a celebratory crowd at Fourth and Water streets, saying they didn’t fear for their safety at the time.
Former Daily Progress photographer Ryan M. Kelly was asked about the dozens of photos he took of the car attack.
Kelly said he had been downtown all day; in the afternoon, he decided to follow a group of counter-protesters up Fourth Street.
While near Market Street, he testified that he heard a car engine revving and tires screeching behind him. He said he turned around to see the Challenger accelerate into the group of counter-protesters he had been photographing. Kelly took more 70 images of attack in a few seconds.
Defense attorney Denise Lunsford pointed to one of his photos and asked Kelly if he saw brake lights. Kelly said he did, but he had not noticed them before the vehicle collided with the crowd.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina-Alice Antony then asked Kelly to go through the shots one by one to identify where they first showed brake lights and damage to the rear of the vehicle. It was only after the photographs showed the Dodge Challenger colliding with the crowd that Kelly pointed to damage to the rear windshield and what he referred to as “reverse lights.”
Testimony from two members of the Charlottesville Police Department was used to establish facts of the case.
Detective Jeremy Carper said blood was found on the car’s windshield, grill and around the scene of the attack. A side mirror with blood on it was recovered by Virginia State Police on Fourth Street; the mirror matched the make and model of Fields’ car, according to detectives.
Corporal Steve Young, who investigated the attack, said Fields did not stop his car after hitting the crowd at Fourth and Water streets. Earlier in the day, Young said, Fields was seen in what is now Market Street Park with other Unite the Right protesters, and he had acquired a shield.
During Young’s testimony, prosecutors played several videos of the rally, the car attack and its aftermath.
Many of the victims who had testified were in the courtroom as the videos played. Though unable to see the video evidence, which does not face the gallery, the audio caused visible pain to the survivors. Many closed their eyes, hugging their friends close as tears ran down their faces, the sounds of quiet sobs muffled by recorded screams.
While the videos played, Fields alternated between staring at a notepad in front of him and looking toward the jury.
The Fields trial will continue at 9 a.m. Monday. Judge Richard E. Moore said he expected prosecutors to finish presenting evidence on Tuesday.
Daily Progress reporters Ruth Serven Smith and Katherine Knott contributed to this story.