‘He didn’t seem angry:’ Couple met suspect hours before car plowed into crowd

‘He didn’t seem angry:’ Couple met suspect hours before car plowed into crowd
Police say 20-year-old James Alex Fields drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protesters as they walked in the opposite direction on the street, killing 1 woman. (Source: CNN/Albemarle-Charlottesville County Regional Jail)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In the second day of the defense calling witnesses to the stand in the James Field Jr. state murder trial, a young couple from the Richmond area testified to meeting Fields hours before he’s accused of driving into a crowd killing Heather Heyer and injuring more than 20 other people.

“He didn’t seem angry,” said Sarah Bolstad, who went to the Unite the Right Rally with her boyfriend in August 2017.

Bolstad and her boyfriend Hayden Calhoun met Fields later in the day after initially getting to Charlottesville around 10 a.m. the day of the Unite the Right Rally. Bolstad says Calhoun wanted to go and see speakers, specifically naming Christopher Cantwell.

Calhoun said they were able to get into Emancipation Park on the day of the rally, and stayed for about 45 minutes before Calhoun needed to use a restroom. Both said when they attempted to get back to the park, the area had “erupted in violence," and they could not get back to where they originally were.

They joined a group heading to McIntire Park, but eventually decided to find a way to return to their car. They couple says they were approached by James Fields Jr. and another man, Joshua Matthews, who told them they should stick together because there was “safety in numbers.”

Calhoun described Fields as calm and tired, and said he had no weapons on him when they met. They walked back to Fields car parked at a McDonald’s and he offered to drive them to their car. As they were getting out, the couple testified to being invited to lunch, Bolstad said Calhoun said no.

“I really felt comfortable with them,” she told the jury. “He didn’t seem angry.”

Bolstad told jurors they ended up recognizing Fields when his photo was on the news following his arrest. At first they decided not to ever tell anyone about their interaction, and later decided to contact the FBI Field Office in Richmond.

Trooper Clifford Thomas, a crash reconstruction expert with Virginia State Police, said the Silver Challenger was traveling at least 23 MPH before initial impact. The car plowed into more than 20 people before slamming into a Camry that was stopped at an intersection. Thomas says the force of the impact caused the Camry to go from 0 MPH to 17 MPH. Thomas testified that the airbags of the Challenger did not deploy, and he did not have data on how fast the car was going when it initially struck counter protesters.

Detective Steve Young, testified for the third time since testimony began, and said data from Fields phone showed he was scheduled to go to an orientation at the Coolidge Admission Center in Toledo, OH just four days after the crash.

Also analyzing data from Fields phone, Digital Forensic Examiner Phil DePue, told jurors it showed Fields' searched directions to Maumee, OH using Google Maps at 1:39 p.m. just minutes before the crash. DePue says there were several route options, but there is no way of knowing which route was taken. The Commonwealth asked if any of the routes would have directed Fields to continue on 4th street down Market, Depue answered, no.

Edmund Davidson, associated with the Sons of Confederate Veterans testified to being in Charlottesville during the rally in order to see the Robert E. Lee statue and be “present" to say the statue should still stand. He was invited to go by some friends. He was able to get into Emancipation Park to see the statue and also noticed “people in the street." Davidson says he spoke with others who said they traveled to Charlottesville in support of the statue as well. Davidson had a small camera with him, and decided to take photos of the crowd. Months later he realized he had taken photos of Fields. He told jurors he also captured photos of a man who appeared to have been sprayed with a chemical in the face, and while a woman poured milk on the mans face, a VSP trooper was just looking at the man, Davidson says doing nothing more. He also took photos of smoke n the street, and testified to being in the park when the unlawful assembly was declared, saying he was cornered unsure how to get out of the area, while also being under the threat of arrest. Among the 34 photos he captured the day of the rally was a sign that said “this machine kills fascists.”

Court is expected to resume at 9 a.m. The defense is expected to call just two more witnesses, and closing arguments should begin in the afternoon.

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