Preliminary report cites confusion, ignored warnings in Charlottesville unrest

WASHINGTON — A preliminary report says Charlottesville officials did not apply recommendations from Virginia State Police and emergency officials, “including industry best practices for handling violent events,” before and during the deadly violence at an Aug. 12 white supremacist rally.

The state’s progress report was presented to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Task Force on Public Safety Preparedness and Response to Civil Unrest on Thursday. The International Association of Chiefs of Police is assisting in compiling the state’s after-action review.

According to the preliminary report, Charlottesville officials did not implement many recommendations after the Virginia Fusion Center concluded “that participants were planning to be aggressive/violent,” and despite state analysts’ “concerns of mass casualty event, including (a) car attack.”

Counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed when a car, allegedly driven by white nationalist James Alex Fields, plowed into people opposing the “Unite The Right” march. Fields is charged with second-degree-murder, hit and run, and several counts of malicious wounding.

“There were multiple command posts, leading to a lack of good quality information flow across agencies, disciplines and policy makers,” according to the report. “The full capacity of VDEM was underutilized. The regional Incident Management Team was not activated until 3 days prior to the event.”

Before future events, the state report recommends tabletop training exercises involving all agencies, rather than each agency solely practicing for its own duties.

Another after-action report, requested and paid for by the city of Charlottesville, is being headed by former federal prosecutor Tim Heaphy.

“We do not anticipate releasing any interim report or preliminary findings,” said Heaphy, in an email. “We intend to complete our review and issue a fulsome account of the several protest events, and make recommendations for improved handling of such events in the future.”

Heaphy said his report will be completed by the end of the year.

WTOP is seeking comment from Charlottesville officials about the conclusions and recommendations in the state’s progress report.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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