Charlottesville murder suspect’s teacher: ‘He thought Nazis were pretty cool guys’

Win McNamee/Getty Images(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.)-- The 20-year-old Ohio man police say accelerated his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia in an incident that left one dead and 19 injured "thought the Nazis were pretty cool guys," according to his former history teacher.

James Alex Fields Jr. was charged with second-degree murder following Saturday’s incident. Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old victim, was marching alongside members of the Democratic Socialists of America and other activist groups at the time she was killed, according to witnesses.

Derek Weimer says he taught World History to Fields, as well as a course called America's Modern Wars, while Fields was a student at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Kentucky. He described Fields as being "fairly quiet," "smart," and also an open admirer of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

"He would say things that had that bent to it," Weimer told ABC News of Fields' interest in Nazism. "He really thought the Nazis were pretty cool guys."

Weimer said that he and Fields engaged in many private discussions, as well as the ones that were held publicly in class, and that Weimer frequently attempted to "challenge his beliefs" about Nazism.

He said that Fields confessed to reading and enjoying Mein Kampf, Hitler's 1925 autobiography, a book that is considered a touchstone for white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

"He would usually make his points in a calm and respectful way," Weimer said, responding to a question about whether Fields had exhibited signs of the violence police say he displayed on Saturday.

Some of Fields' classmates at the school recalled a trip to Europe a group of students took after graduation in 2015, when they visited the Dachau concentration camp. Two of the students on the trip said when they arrived at the concentration camp, Fields said, "This is is where the magic happened."

Weimer noted that Randall K. Cooper High School is not particularly diverse, and said that as a result, he didn't have many opportunities to see Fields interact with many non-whites or Jewish people.

"We had between 1200 and 1300 students at that time," Weimer said. "Maybe four percent were black. There were only a handful of Jews. The school was just about six percent Latin-American."

Fields attended basic training from August 2015 until December 2015, when he was released for failure to meet training standards, according to a statement from the Army.

"As a result he was never awarded a military occupational skill nor was he assigned to a unit outside of basic training," Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson said.

He had an 'African-American friend'

Samantha Bloom, Fields' mother, told the Associated Press that her son James Alex Fields Jr. "had an African-American friend," in response to a question about whether or not he was a white supremacist.

"I just knew he was going to a rally. I mean, I try to stay out of his political views. You know, we don't, you know, I don't really get too involved, I moved him out to his own apartment, so we, I'm watching his cat," Bloom told the AP.

"I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump's not a white supremacist," Bloom added about her son's appearance at the white nationalist gathering.

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California anticipates much-needed rain this week after catastrophic wildfires

California anticipates much-needed rain this week after catastrophic wildfiresGoogle Earth(NEW YORK) -- Ravaged by a slew of deadly wildfires in recent days, northern California is set to get a bit of relief this week in the form of rain.

A storm system is expected to move over the Pacific Northwest later this week and the trailing cold front will most likely bring some much-needed rain to northern California between Thursday and Friday, according to ABC meteorologists.

"It will rain a bit but not enough to fully douse the blazes," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said in a statement Tuesday. "The biggest advantage to firefighters will be the increase in humidity and lower temperatures."

Massive wildfires have charred more than 245,000 acres of land statewide in the past week, killing at least 41 people and destroying thousands of homes, according to authorities.

Firefighters were battling about a dozen wildfires as of late Tuesday evening, although most of them were more than halfway contained.

“The weather today will be warm with low humidity, which will continue to challenge firefighters, but only light winds are forecast,” CalFire said in a statement on Tuesday. “A chance of precipitation is expected to arrive later in the week, bringing relief from the dry conditions.”

The northern parts of the Golden State, which has bared the brunt of the fire damage, is forecast to see an influx of cloudy, cooler and wetter weather later in the week, according to AccuWeather.

Spotter from Los Osos was reporting sprinkles from this high level moisture. Dry at lower levels. Rain evaporates. Also called "Virga" #cawx

— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) October 18, 2017

However, a return of dry air, heat and areas of gusty winds could once again raise the wildfire danger early next week, meteorologists said.

Separately, a band of moisture, referred to as Atmospheric River by weather experts, is currently stretching between Asia and North America. It’s expected to bring several storm systems into many parts of the Pacific Northwest through the rest of the week.

The first of these storms have already hit the Pacific Northwest with wind gusts of between 40 and 74 mph.

A number of wind warnings and flood watches are in effect in the western and northern parts of the U.S. ahead of the storm.

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