Man arrested for firing gun at Charlottesville rally
A man who is suspected of firing a gun at counterprotesters during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month has been arrested, police said Saturday.
Richard Wilson Preston, 52, was arrested following the release of a video, filmed by the ACLU of Virginia, that allegedly shows him in a verbal altercation on August 12 with counterprotestors near the Southwest corner of Emancipation Park. In the video, counterprotesters appear to throw objects at right-wing marchers.
After several seconds, the man in the video, who is wearing a load-bearing vest, with a pistol on one leg and extra magazines on the other, turns away from the argument and walks away. Before reaching the edge of the frame, he turns back, drawing a pistol and shouting “Hey, n****r.”
With his pistol out and pointed at the crowd, he walks toward them before pausing, taking a step back, and racking the slide to load a bullet in his weapon’s chamber. The man aims again, seemingly lower, and quickly fires a shot, before turning around, holstering his weapon, and rejoining the march.
As the camera pans to follow the man, police officers in high-visibility vests — including Virginia State Police troopers in their distinctive hats — can be seen manning barricades some 50 feet away. They appear not to react to the shot.
Aside from identifying the shooter in the video as Preston, Charlottesville police spokesman Lt. Thomas McKean declined to comment.
The Virginia State Police confirmed Saturday that their officers were nearby, but said they were unaware of the incident.
“From where they were standing, none was witness to the incident,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told CNN in an email. “Nor did they hear the single shot being fired because it was muffled by the loud volume of the crowd yelling and chanting, drums and music.”
“Had any one of our troopers witnessed that incident, they would have immediately acted just as they did for the other four arrests made during the weekend,” she added.
There were no indications at the time or since that anyone was hit by the bullet.
Attempts by CNN to identify an attorney representing Preston were unsuccessful Sunday. A telephone number connected with Preston in public records had been disconnected.
Preston is charged with discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school, a felony that carries up to 10 years in prison.
One person died at the August 12 rally. Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a driver plowed his car into a group of counterprotestors. Police said Saturday that 35 victims had been identified in the hit-and-run incident, and that the investigation is ongoing.
The alleged driver, James Alex Fields Jr., is scheduled to appear in Charlottesville General District Court on December 14.He is charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death.
Two other men were charged this week for violent crimes related to the “Unite the Right” rally.
Daniel Patrick Borden, 18, and Alex Michael Ramos, 33, were charged with “malicious wounding” in connection with an assault at the rally.
Borden was arrested Friday. Ramos remained at large on Sunday.