3 dead following white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — FBI announces investigation

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Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the “Unite the Right” rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017.
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Thomson Reuters

    Three people are dead and dozens were left injured after protests turned violent Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. The violence erupted between white nationalists and counter-protesters. One counter-protester died and several others were injured after a driver plowed into a crowd. The suspected driver was arrested and charged with second-degree murder The FBI is launching an investigation into the car crash. President Donald Trump faced criticism for not explicitly condemning the white nationalist forces at the demonstrations.

A 32-year-old woman is dead and multiple other people were left injured after a driver plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday afternoon, police chief Al Thomas said.

Two Virginia state police officers were also killed in a helicopter crash outside Charlottesville as they were monitoring the protests from above.

The car crash came after a day of violent and chaotic clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters. The driver of the car has been arrested, and Thomas said at a press conference Saturday evening that the injuries from the crash range from minor to life-threatening.

The police on Saturday evening identified the suspected driver of the car as 20-year-old James Fields. The police told media they were holding him on suspicion of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one hit-and-run count.

The FBI announced late Saturday evening it would open a civil rights investigation into the circumstances around “the deadly vehicular incident,” ABC News reported.

“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

“US Attorney Rick Mountcastle has commenced a federal investigation and will have the full support of the Department of Justice. Justice will prevail,” he said.

Virginia state police identified the two officers who died in the helicopter crash as 48-year-old Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates. They both died at the scene.

Police said their helicopter was “assisting public safety resources” as the events unfolded in Charlottesville, and that there was no indication that foul play was a factor in the crash.

“Lieutenant Cullen was a highly respected professional aviator and Trooper-Pilot Bates was a welcome addition to the Aviation unit,” police said in a statement. “Their deaths are a tremendous loss to our agency and the Commonwealth.”

In total, more than three-dozen people were injured, officials said, including in the car crash and individual altercations. None of the injuries were a result of clashes with police officers, the Charlottesville police chief said.

“The premeditated violence that our community experienced today was completely unacceptable,” Thomas said, adding that the Virginia National Guard had been deployed at one point to disperse the crowds.

At the press conference, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe delivered a harsh rebuke of the white nationalists who attended the rally, chanted neo-Nazi slogans, and engaged in racial taunting.

“You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. My message is clear: we are stronger than you,” he said.

“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: My message is go home. You are not wanted in this commonwealth. Shame on you. … You are anything but a patriot.”

WATCH: VA Gov. McAuliffe towhite supremacists in Charlottesville: “You pretend that youare patriots but you are anything but a patriot.” pic.twitter.com/GLuUewc7VM

pic.twitter.com/GLuUewc7VMAugust12, 2017

After the deaths were announced, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Deepest condolences to the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police who died today. You’re all among the best this nation produces.”

Trump faced vehement criticism for his comments earlier on Saturday pinning blame for the violence in Charlottesville “on many sides” while declining to specifically condemn white nationalists.

The protests that began Friday evening and continued on Saturday accompanied a “Unite the Right” rally that was called by white nationalists in response to a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville.

One of the counter-protesters who was hit described the scene to a reporter shortly after.

“There were just a few cars that counter-protesters were blocking,” the man said.

He then said that the driver of the car was “honking their horn” and then “they were just, like, bulldozing through people.”

Another witness had two friends who were hit by the car and had to take them to the hospital. The witness described the incident as “absolutely intentional.”

“I am furious & heartsick by the car crash that has injured many,” Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer tweeted. “Please all-go home to your families. We can work tomorrow. GO HOME! PLEASE!”

McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency earlier on Saturday, as clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters had continued to escalate.

Warning: The footage below contains graphic content and may be disturbing to some viewers.

Video of car hittinganti-racist protestors. Let there be no confusion: this wasdeliberate terrorism. My prayers with victims. Stay home. pic.twitter.com/MUOZs71Pf4

pic.twitter.com/MUOZs71Pf4August12, 2017