Photographer, Victims Describe Terrifying Scene of Charlottesville Car Attack

Nov 30, 2018

Three victims of the deadly crash following a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville testified Friday, along with an award-winning photographer who took pictures of the event. 

White supremacist James Fields showed no emotion as people testified about the trauma he caused by speeding down a narrow street clogged with counter protesters.   Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Ryan Kelly testified her had never seen a vehicle go so fast in that area, and even after bodies began flying,

In this courtroom sketch James Alex Fields Jr., center, sits with his attorney's Denise Lunsford, left, and John Hill.
Credit (Izabel Zermani via AP)

he saw no sign that the driver hit his brakes. “I heard the revving of an engine and the screech of tires,” he recalled. “I saw the car accelerate, people flying.  I heard thuds and screams and crying.”

38-year-old Star Peterson said she suffered two broken legs and several spinal fractures, forcing her to have five surgeries. Before the trial, she described to us the moment the car ran over both of her legs. “So I called for help and a stranger pulled me out of the street, and then other activists jumped in and secured my head so the broken shards of my spine wouldn’t cut my spinal cord and leave me paralyzed."

Peterson needed five surgeries and was unable to care for herself for more than three months.  “I was in a back brace, so I couldn’t get out of bed without putting the back brace on, but I couldn’t put the back brace on myself, so it was impossible for me to live independently,” Peterson told us before the trial. Friday, she came to the courtroom  in a wheelchair.

Tay Washington recalled being stuck in her car as counter-protesters marched up Fourth Street.  An African-American, she was heartened by the show of anti-racist sentiment, but when Fields car hit her from behind, she was traumatized by a body flying onto the hood of her vehicle. 

Lizet Short was also trapped in her mini-van, first by white supremacists who caused her to roll up her windows and then by counter-protesters who prompted her to roll them back down.  “They were chanting black lives matter and other positive things,” she recalled.  When she stepped out to take pictures, however, her van was hit from behind and she ended up on the hood with a head injury. 

Fields' trial will resume Monday.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.