Posted: August 12, 2017
By Jared Leone, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. —
A state police helicopter flying above a clash between protesters crashed Saturday near a golf course in the Virginia woods, killing two people on board, police said.
Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Burke M.M. Bates were killed in the crash, Virginia State Police said.
“(The helicopter) was assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation,” state police said in a statement when it crashed around 4:50 p.m. near the Birdwood Golf Course. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Helicopter crash fully involved believed to be VSP Helicopter working the protest but agency not confirmed.— VPFF President Bragg (@Hoosff) August 12, 2017
FAA: "A Bell 407 helicopter crashed seven miles southwest of Charlottesville at about 4:50 pm today." pic.twitter.com/q5ZX6hImrs— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) August 12, 2017
No one on the ground was injured.
The crash happened just a couple hours after a car plowed into a crowd of people.
Cullen graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in 1994. He joined the avaiation unit in 1999. He is survived by a wife and two sons.
Bates graduated from the academy in 2004 and had transferred to the aviation unit in July. He would have turned 41 Sunday. He is survived by a wife, a son and daughter.
“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
After violence caused authorities to stop a white nationalist rally before it began Saturday, a driver plowed his car into a crowd of protesters.
The driver has been identified as James Alex Fields, 20, of Ohio, according to CNN. He was arrested and charged with second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of failing to stop at an accident that resulted in a death, according to police.
Department of Justice officials opened a civil rights investigation Saturday into the deadly car attack, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia and the Richmond field office of the FBI said.
“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
A 32-year-old woman who was crossing the street was killed and 19 people were injured, the Associated Press confirmed with hospital officials. Altogether 35 people were treated for injuries.
The incident took place approximately two hours after violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters caused authorities to declare the "Unite the Right" rally an unlawful assembly, The Associated Press reported.
The white nationalists were protesting the city of Charlottesville's decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The group carried torches at a rally Friday night.
Several hundred protesters were marching when the car appeared to deliberately drive into a group of them, The Associated Press reported. Virginia State Police said injuries ranged from life-threatening to minor.
The Associated Press reported that the driver has been arrested.
A Saturday rally in Emancipation Park in Virginia around the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ended before it began, as authorities shut the event down due to violence.
The Virginia State Police declared an unlawful assembly and ordered the crowd to disperse about a half-hour before the protest was to begin.
After rally attendees and protesters dispersed, a car rammed into a group of people Saturday afternoon.
Just a couple hours later, a helicopter flying over the fray with two police officers crashed.
The Associated Press confirmed with hospital officials that a 32-year-old woman crossing the street was killed, and 19 others were treated for injuries. Altogether 35 people were treated for injuries.
The Associated Press confirmed that the driver has been arrested.
Read the original report below.
Supporters and protesters were seen gathering Saturday morning at the rally site.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said the event could be “the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.”
Alt-right activists marched in a torch-lit rally late Friday through the University of Virginia campus and clashed with rival protesters, CNN reported.
Protesters chanted “blood and soil” and “one people, one nation, end immigration” as they rallied around a statue of Thomas Jefferson, WWBT reported.
Police broke up Friday’s march, calling it “unlawful assembly.” University officials condemned the gathering. Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said in a statement that the rally was “a cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance” that passed by the statue Jefferson, who founded the university in 1819.
“Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here's mine: not only as the Mayor of Charlottesville, but as a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus," Signer said.
University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan said she “strongly” condemned the clashes.
"Law enforcement continues to investigate the incident, and it is my hope that any individuals responsible for criminal acts are held accountable,” she said in a statement.
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