MAUMEE, Ohio — Residents of this small northwest Ohio city want the rest of the world to know this: The man who stands accused in the death of a counter-protester at a white nationalist march in Charlottesville does not represent them.
Bill Nau, who works at The Cigar Affair on Maumee's busy main drag, was smoking a cigar Saturday evening when he saw on Fox News that someone had driven into a crowd there, killing one woman and injuring 19. He later learned the suspect was James Alex Fields Jr., 20, identified as being from Maumee.
"None of us know this individual who’s been associated with Maumee," Nau said. "None of us would ever condone this kind of domestic terrorism."
With a population of less than 15,000, it's the kind of place where everyone knows each other, Nau said, and he can speak on behalf of his fellow residents.
Maumee Councilman Dave Kissinger, who recalled seeing Fields' Dodge Challenger around town because it was a distinctive car, said Maumee is a caring and supportive community.
"It's a horrific thing that occurred," he said. "It's an unfortunate loss of life that we are all mourning for."
Fields' last known address is in nearby Monclova Township, in an upscale apartment complex where he lived with his mother, Samantha Bloom, 49. They moved there from Northern Kentucky in the last couple of years for Bloom's job, and she told the Toledo Blade that her son recently moved out on his own.
The FBI is in town investigating, according to Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, who also expressed shock.
"The Maumee community is just a strong, middle-class community. Hard workers," he said. "This is totally unusual. It's a surprise to everyone."
Tharp said the Ku Klux Klan protested in Toledo years ago but he knew of no connection with alt-right groups since.
Bloom told media that she thought her son was going to Charlottesville for an event related to President Trump.
The Ohio Republican Party said Sunday it had no knowledge of Fields volunteering for any party events in this state.
"The Ohio Republican Party condemns his unconscionable act of hatred and violence, and believes he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," spokesman Blaine Kelly said. "White supremacy has no place in our country, and as President Trump said, it is time to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection for each other."
In Monclova Township, where sheriff's deputies blocked access to Bloom's apartment community, residents were also reeling.
“The whole incident is just abhorrent. It’s just awful,” said Jaclyn Haines, the mother of a 2-year-old. “To hear he was from Maumee — he lived 30 seconds from me, a minute from my daughter’s future elementary school — it’s really scary.”
Haines, who has lived in Maumee her whole life, said she did not know Fields.
Pastor Robert Fry of the Heritage Church of God, located a few blocks from the apartment complex, also said he had never seen or heard of Fields before seeing his picture on television.
“Maybe if he had went to church more, he would have changed,” he said.
After seeing the news this morning, Fry said he wrote a message against hatred to members of his congregation.
“It hurts me that I couldn’t be more effective as a minister and that others can’t be more effective,” Fry said. “We’ve all got to do a better job. There is no supremacy of any person.”
He said he was unaware of any white nationalist presence in the area.
“As a pastor in this church, Maumee seems to be a very balanced community as far as people, whether of color, whether of finances,” Fry said.
Maria Stanton, vice president of property operations at Redwood Living, which owns the Reserve at Monclova, said the company is cooperating with law enforcement. She was unable to say whether the apartment had been searched by investigators.
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