The day after her daughter’s killer was sentenced to life in prison, Susan Bro, mother of Heather D. Heyer, said she has a message for President Trump.
“Please think before you speak,” Bro said Wednesday morning on CNN.
Her comment was prompted by a question about how the president handled the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville 15 months ago, when avowed neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. killed Heyer and wounded dozens of others by ramming his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
Trump faced widespread criticism for not swiftly and firmly denouncing white supremacists and neo-Nazis; instead, he said that both factions had “very fine people.” Later, he blamed “both sides” for the bloody mayhem at the Unite the Right rally.
Speaking with CNN from Charlottesville, Bro rolled her eyes after the president was mentioned.
She recalled not returning calls from the White House after her daughter’s death. She had turned her phone off to focus on the funeral Aug. 16, 2017, she said; by the time she turned it back on, she had three missed calls from the White House.
The messages were “increasingly frantic,” Bro said.
During a combative news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan the day before, the president had defiantly declared that “both sides” were responsible for the deadly violence. He also said that participants in the Unite the Right rally, who were protesting the removal of a Confederate statue, were not all neo-Nazis and white supremacists and were treated unfairly by the media. The counterprotesters, Trump said, had bat-swinging “troublemakers” among them.
“Once I heard what he had to say, I just said I think he’s busy and I’m busy, and neither one of us really has time to talk to one another,” Bro said on CNN.
Shortly after her daughter’s killing, Bro had said that she did not want to hear from Trump, since, she said, he had equated counterprotesters to white supremacists.
“I’m not talking to the president now,” Bro said on “Good Morning America” days after Heyer’s funeral. “I’m sorry, after what he said about my child . . . It’s not that I saw somebody else’s tweets about him. I saw an actual clip of him at a news conference equating the protesters . . . with the KKK and the white supremacists.”
Last week, a jury convicted Fields on 10 charges, including first-degree murder. Prosecutors said Fields rammed his two-door muscle car into the counterprotesters — his perceived political and ideological enemies — with the intent to kill or harm them. Thirty-five people were wounded; some have not yet fully recovered.
Fields was sentenced Tuesday to life plus 419 years in prison, as well as $480,000 in fines. This sentence, which was the jury’s recommendation, is not final. Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard E. Moore, who will formally sentence Fields on March 29, can follow the jury’s recommendation or impose a lesser punishment.
In convicting Fields, jurors rejected the defense’s argument that he felt threatened, that he acted to defend himself, and that his behavior was somehow affected by the violence of that day.
Attendees of the Unite the Right rally — many of whom yelled fascist, anti-Semitic slogans and displayed Nazi swastikas — clashed with counterprotesters who opposed their presence in Charlottesville. Because of the violence, authorities canceled the rally hours before it was supposed to begin.
But that afternoon, as counterprotesters were marching on Charlottesville’s downtown mall, Fields drove his 2010 Dodge Challenger at high speed into them.
Fields still faces a separate federal trial for alleged hate crimes related to the crash, including one offense that carries a possible death sentence.
Paul Duggan contributed to this report.