CINCINNATI — A former high school teacher of James Alex Fields Jr., now a suspect in the Charlottesville, Va., attack on counterprotesters that left a woman dead and 19 others injured, "was a very bright kid but very misguided and disillusioned."
Weimer, a former teacher at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Ky., told The Cincinnati Enquirer in an interview that he knew of Fields’ political leanings early on. He said another teacher filed a report during Fields’ freshman year over something Fields had written for an assignment "that just went beyond the pale."
"It was very much along the party lines of the neo-Nazi movement," Weimer said.
Former Cooper High School teacher Derek Weimer taught Charlottesville attack suspect James Alex Fields Jr. Weimer said Fields had beliefs that "very much along the lines of the neo-Nazi movement." The Enquirer/Meg Vogel
Weimer, 45, of Florence, Ohio, didn’t know for sure if Fields’ mother was notified but said “that would have been standard procedure” and Cooper administrators “were very good about keeping parents in the loop.”
Weimer said that he was probably the closest to Fields, now 20, out of everyone on the faculty.
“I’m sure if you would ask James he would say I was his favorite or one of his favorite teachers,” said Weimer, adding that he had Fields in three classes directly and had regular interaction with him after classes and during free time.
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Fields' mother, Samantha Bloom, 49, told the Associated Press Saturday that she would be surprised if her son's views were so far right that her son would attend a white supremacist rally.
Cooper High administrators did not return messages sent Sunday seeking comment. Messages to Boone County School District officials also went unanswered.
Weimer, who left the school in 2015, said he can’t recall any direct communication with Fields’ mother himself.
James Fields (Photo: Provided)
“A lot of boys get interested in the Germans and Nazis because they’re interested in World War II. But James took it to another level. He researched everything and had an intellectual argument for all his points, which is something you just don’t see that often.”
Yet Weimer also said that he encountered other students with similar thoughts, adding that the constant presence of the Confederate flag was an ongoing issue.
He recalled how an African-American cheerleader was uncomfortable having to ride in a parade being carried by a pickup truck with a large Confederate flag sticker.
“There are definitely students with these kinds of thoughts and feelings … but normally if you present them with an intellectual argument, they can see both sides,” Weimer said. “But James was definitely different.
“And there are others like him out there — we as a society have to do a better job of figuring out how to reach them,” he said. “This isn’t something that happens overnight … it builds up over time and we need to pay more attention to this."
Regarding Fields, “I feel like I failed and that we all failed,” Weimer said.