Aerial Footage Shows Charlottesville Attacker's Attempted Escape, Troopers' Relentless Pursuit - NBC4 Washington

Aerial Footage Shows Charlottesville Attacker's Attempted Escape, Troopers' Relentless Pursuit

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Footage Shows Relentless Pursuit of C'ville Attacker

    Before a Virginia State Police helicopter crashed with two troopers on board, the chopper was used to track the Charlottesville car attacker. One man on board was killed. The second, replaced by another man, was spared. News4's Julie Carey has the exclusive footage. 

    (Published Wednesday, July 17, 2019)

    On the August 2017 night a white supremacist killed an anti-racism protester in Charlottesville, there was a second tragedy: two Virginia state troopers watching from the air crashed.

    Trooper Berke Bates spent some of his final hours making sure a racist killer was brought to justice, video footage obtained first by News4 shows. 

    Aerial video from the troopers' helicopter records their determination to not let James Fields Jr. get away. The video was key evidence prosecutors used to argue for a life sentence. On Monday, Fields received a second life sentence plus 419 years in prison for the attack. 

    The footage offers a never-before-seen view of the chaos.

    On the ground, "Unite the Right" protesters had cleared out and counter-protesters were marching together in a joyful mood. "Whose streets? Our streets!" some chanted.

    Then, Fields hit the gas on his gray Dodge Challenger, hitting a crowd of people.

    From the air, Bates and a partner watching the scene can be heard reacting.

    "Oh my God. That car just drove through them," one can be heard saying.

    Suddenly, their mission was to keep their camera trained on Fields.

    "I need left. I need left. I got the car," one of the troopers says with steady professionalism. 

    They order all police units to hunt for him. And then they lose him for a moment.

    Then, they've spotted him again.

    "I got him, We're back on him," a trooper says.

    The troopers saw a police officer pursue Fields on the ground. The front bumper hung off his car after he hit and killed Heather Heyer and injured two dozen others.

    The chopper continued to track Fields as he pulled over and then continued on again. Video shows his car's bumper falling off. Then he finally brings the Dodge to a stop.

    "He's got his hands out the window," a trooper says.

    It was almost 2 p.m. Three hours later, the first trooper who accompanied Bates was replaced by Lt. Jay Cullen.

    Their chopper spun and crashed to the ground, killing both men on board. Bates was 40. Cullen was 48. Both were survived by wives and children. 

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