A series of failures by the Charlottesville Police helped contribute to violence at a white nationalist rally in August, a report released Friday details.
A former U.S. attorney hired by the city of Charlottesville, Va., Timothy Heapy, drafted a report through his law firm that detailed the weak law enforcement preparation and response. President Donald Trump was criticized in the wake of the rally for not condemning white nationalists strongly enough for being responsible for the violence that led to the death of Heather Heyer.
One damning part of the Heapy’s 220 page report was that the death of Heyer was due in part to police incompetence.
“The most tragic manifestation of the failure to protect public safety after the event was declared unlawful was the death of Heather Heyer. Early on August 12, CPD had placed a school resource officer alone at the intersection of 4th Street NE and Market Street. This officer feared for her safety as groups of angry Alt-Right protesters and counter-protesters streamed by her as they left Emancipation Park. The officer called for assistance and was relieved of her post,” the law firm Hunton & Williams found.
“Unfortunately, CPD commanders did not replace her or make other arrangements to prevent traffic from traveling across the Downtown Mall on 4th Street. A single wooden saw horse was all that impeded traffic down 4th Street as large groups of people continued to roam the streets. This vulnerability was exposed when James Fields drove his vehicle down the unprotected street into a large crowd of counter-protesters at the intersection of 4th Street SE and Water Street, killing Ms. Heyer.”
The law firm also discovered that Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas encouraged violence so unlawful assembly could be declared.
“Let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly,” Thomas said, according to his personal assistant.
Another example of poor action on the part of law enforcement was the dispersal of crowds following the unlawful-assembly declaration.
“Much like the plan for entry to Emancipation Park, the dispersal of crowds following the unlawful-assembly declaration did not ensure separation between conflicting groups. Rather, the mobile field force units pushed the Unite The Right protesters right back onto Market Street, where a larger group of counter-protesters were waiting for them,” the law firm found. “Lieutenant Hatter described the dispersal of Emancipation Park on August 12 as the ‘most messed up thing I ever saw.'”
The report concluded: “The City was unable to protect the right of free expression and facilitate the permit holder’s offensive speech. This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions-the protection of fundamental rights. Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death.”