In the 18 months since the vicious attack on DeAndre Harris during the Unite the Right rally, four of the assailants — all linked to white nationalist, pro-Confederacy or anti-government ideologies — have been caught and convicted. But the men known as “Red Beard” and “Sunglasses” have essentially vanished.
“I never imagined we wouldn’t find them,” said Shaun King, the journalist and Black Lives Matter activist who organized an online campaign that identified three of the attackers. “They were the Forrest Gumps of the rally. They were everywhere. But now, they’re an enigma. Even if they are being protected by white supremacist groups, hell, this is a long time without getting caught. How are they not out and about, and nobody’s seen them?”
Video of the Aug. 12, 2017, attack has been obsessively scrutinized by King and other activists, lawyers and investigators — deconstructing the footage frame by frame, second by second.
Harris, then a 20-year-old special-education aide, suffered a broken wrist, a concussion and a head laceration requiring eight staples. Initially, his beating was overshadowed by the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, who was run over by a car driven by a self-professed neo-Nazi. (James A. Fields Jr. was convicted in December of first-degree murder and malicious wounding in the fatal attack on Heyer that also injured dozens.)
But the assault on Harris also came to define the racial violence unleashed that day. The sight of a white nationalist mob setting upon a black man evoked images from the Jim Crow era, particularly a 1961 front-page newspaper photo showing Ku Klux Klan members in Birmingham, Ala., pummeling a black bystander.
Thanks largely to the photos and videos taken by journalists and activists, three of Harris’s attackers are serving time in prison or jail for malicious wounding: Jacob Scott Goodwin, of Ward, Ark.; Daniel Borden, of Mason, Ohio; and Alex Michael Ramos, of Jackson, Ga. On Feb. 8, Charlottesville prosecutors secured their fourth victory after Tyler Watkins Davis, of Middleburg, Fla., entered an Alford plea, acknowledging authorities had enough evidence for a conviction.
But investigators let it be known they are not done.
On Feb. 14, the Charlottesville Police Department tweeted a news release and images of the man with the red beard and the other man with blond hair and sunglasses.
“Detectives continue to seek information in Deandre Harris case from 8/12/17. Have you seen these two men?” the tweet said. “Call Crimestoppers anonymously at (434) 977-4000.”
In an interview, Declan Hickey, the Charlottesville detective handling the investigation, said it was “definitely a relief to have the four men held accountable. But DeAndre is baffled that, in this day and age, nobody has identified the two missing men.” At this point, Hickey said, “I’ve pretty much exhausted everything I can do with this case.”
Harris, who is now 21 and works for a car dealership, declined to be interviewed for this report. The day after the rally, he returned to the parking garage for an on-camera interview with Zach D. Roberts, the freelance photojournalist whose wide-angle shot of the attack became its definitive image.
“I don’t know if I’m safe in this town anymore,” Harris told Roberts. “I could have lost my life yesterday if it wasn’t for [my friends]. I could have been beaten to a pulp right there, man. Every time I look at the video, and I just think about it, it just . . . blows me, man.”
'Get out of here!'
The confrontation began when Harris saw a friend tussling with a flagpole-wielding white nationalist. Harris later testified that he feared his friend was being speared. Harris swung a Maglite flashlight at the white nationalist, appearing on video to hit him in the head. Then Harris fled into the half-lit parking garage, where he was quickly surrounded.
Clad in a military-style tactical helmet and goggles covering most of his face, Goodwin repeatedly kicked Harris. Then, Davis, a member of the white-nationalist group League of the South, bashed Harris in the head with a tire thumper, leaving a large gash on top of his skull.
Two more men joined: Borden, an 18-year-old high school dropout clad in a helmet that said “Commie Killer,” and Ramos, a member of an anti-government Georgia group. Borden smacked Harris with a large wooden plank. Then, Ramos struck Harris on the ground with his fist.
The last two attackers — Red Beard and Sunglasses — can be seen in the upper-lefthand corner of the video. Sunglasses clutched a kite-shaped, medieval-style shield bearing the insignia of the white-supremacist group Vanguard America; in his right hand, he held a wooden pole with its flag rolled-up.
Within seconds, Sunglasses smacked Harris twice with the flagpole. Then, Red Beard entered the fray. He, too, was brandishing a flagpole, and he struck Harris with it while Harris was scurrying on the floor, trying to flee.
“Get out of here [expletive]!” Sunglasses barked at Harris. “Get out of here! Get out of here!”
'Who is this man?'
When Hickey saw the footage two days later, the detective was aghast.
“You look at that video,” Hickey said, “and you think they must be trying to kill him.”
As clips of Harris’s beating spread online, Hickey said the department fielded calls from people outraged that no one had been arrested.
King, who has millions of social media followers, began leading a campaign to identify Harris’s attackers. First, he publicly named Borden. “Your classmates turned you in,” King wrote. “And your neck moles gave it away.”
Then, he posted a photo of Red Beard and wrote, “WHO IS THIS MAN with the red beard? He committed a violent felony. . . . I’M FURIOUS.”
A few days later, King set his sights on Sunglasses. “ALL HANDS ON DECK,” King wrote. “We are looking for the Nazi in the sunglasses and the white shirt. Here his friend clearly calls him ‘Doug.’ . . . This is the closest we’ve been to identifying him.”
The video shows Sunglasses — minutes after his attack on Harris — marching calmly and chatting.
“What’s up, Doug?” one man said to him.
“How ya doing, man?” Sunglasses replied.
“I’m doing great.”
“I subscribe to your YouTube channel,” Sunglasses said. “I watch it all the time.”
The video has been viewed nearly 130,000 times. People posted comments with all sorts of tips, some earnest attempts, others obvious jabs.
Hickey said he ran down the name “Doug” and other possible names, but nothing panned out. By October, Borden, Ramos and Goodwin had been arrested. None of the men said they knew each other in advance of the attack. And none said they knew the names of the two missing assailants.
In fact, during the prosecution’s first criminal trial in the case, defense attorney Elmer Woodard tried to deflect blame from his client, Goodwin, by focusing on Sunglasses and Red Beard.
“Sunglasses is beating [Harris] with . . . great enthusiasm,” Woodard said. “Red Beard” was beating him, too. “While all that is going on, Mr. Goodwin is stumbling over [Harris]. He’s not kicking him, he’s not punching him, he’s not doing anything. If anything, he’s preventing others from doing stuff to him.”
Woodard’s argument went nowhere. Goodwin was found guilty.
Two days after the verdict, King went on Twitter and upped the reward to $35,000 for the name of Sunglasses. He posted close-up shots of Sunglasses’ face and videos of him marching or attacking Harris.
“He is still on the loose & the @FBI doesn’t seem to care,” he wrote. “We will find him ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Hickey monitored chat rooms of white supremacists. He worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks white supremacists and helped him identify Davis, who will be sentenced in August. The department also reached out to several alt-right YouTube commentators and bloggers, but they didn’t help. Asked if he contacted leaders of Vanguard America or League of the South, Hickey said there was little point.
“If they had any interest in giving up one of their guys, they would have reached out to us,” Hickey said.
(Reached by The Washington Post on the social network Gab, Dillon Hopper, the commander of Vanguard America, said he does not know Sunglasses. “I don’t know very many people from Vanguard on a personal level,” Hopper wrote. “We communicate strictly under pseudonyms and don’t disclose any personal information.”)
On the segment, he sounded somewhat resigned.
Red Beard, he told the show’s hosts, could have shaved his beard by now. Sunglasses, he said, could have grown a beard.
Now, Hickey just hopes that Sunglasses and Red Beard wind up angering their closest allies or confidantes.
“These rallies will go on and, at some point, one of these guys is going to pop back on the radar,” Hickey said. “Or, they’re going to piss off their wife or girlfriend.”