UPDATE Aug. 12, 3:15 p.m. PT: Two more people are now dead after a helicopter crash in Charlottesville shortly before 2 p.m. PT, according to spokesperson for the Virginia State Police Corinne Geller. While she did not confirm who owned the aircraft, eyewitnesses claim the helicopter belonged to the VSP and was seen flying above protesters earlier Saturday afternoon. It is currently unclear whether this incident is related to the racially-charged rallies, or just a tragic coincidence, but an investigation is underway.
The mayor of the city, Mike Signer, wrote on Twitter that “I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here.”
The Charlottesville police said that the victim was killed when the car rammed into the group, and that 19 were injured. The victim was not identified, nor was the driver of the car, who was apprehended.
It took place at Water & 4th Street, in an area where a group of protesters were walking and chanting to counter the white nationalist demonstrations on Saturday.
Virginia State Police said that the crash involved three cars. According to reporters at the scene and a video posted of a livestream, the gray-colored vehicle with Ohio plates struck pedestrians in the crowd and then hit two other cars, which in turn hit others. The vehicle then sped away. The crash took place near Timberlake’s, a historic drug store in the central business district.
Signer wrote on Twitter that he was “furious and heartsick by the car crash that has injured many. Please all – go home to your families. We can work tomorrow. GO HOME! PLEASE!”
Hundreds of white supremacists and white nationalists descended on the city Friday night and Saturday for a rally that had been organized to protest plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, and local police cleared the crowd after protesters clashed with counter demonstrators. Through much of Saturday, cable news showed images of clashing demonstrators, throwing plastic bottles, engaged in fistfights and screaming at each other.
The rally was set to take place at noon at Emancipation Park, where the statute is located, but police declared an unlawful assembly as the demonstrators clashed.
Authorities said that 15 people were injured at the rally before the crash.
News outlets posted video of the moment when pedestrians were struck, and screams can be heard as the car sped by.