The father of Heather Heyer says he has already forgiven the man accused of killing her.
“People need to stop hate. They need to forgive each other,” Mark Heyer told a local television station outside his home in Florida on Monday. “I include myself in that in forgiving the guy who did this.”
James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old from Ohio, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and malicious wounding after he allegedly rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, killing 32-year-old Heyer and injuring at least 19 people. Fields was denied bond on Monday.
Heather Heyer, who worked as a paralegal at a Charlottesville law firm, devoted her life to helping others, her father said.
“My daughter was a strong woman who had passionate opinions about the equality of everyone, and she tried to stand up for that,” he said. “For her it wasn’t lip service — it was real.”
He added: “She had more courage than I did. She had a stubborn backbone that if she thought she was right, she would stand there and defy you. If I understand her, she would want to do it peacefully.”
Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she feels sorry about the pain Fields is putting his family through.
“I believe that he thought hate was going to be the answer and that hate is going to fix things,” Bro said. “But he was wrong, and he will someday come to see that, I hope, and I’m sorry for the pain he will go through when he sees that. I’m sorry for the pain he’s putting his mother through right now.”
“I’m also extremely sorry that he chose to kill my child and to injure a bunch of other people,” Bro continued. “He didn’t have the right to do that.”
She then delivered an emotional message to her daughter’s alleged killer: “This wasn’t a video game, buddy. This was real people. There are real consequences to what you did, and I’m sorry you chose to do that. You have ruined your life. You’ve disturbed mine. You took my child from me, and I’m going to be the voice she can no longer be.”
Mark Heyer said he hopes that his daughter’s death “changes people’s hearts.”
Over the weekend, Bro shared a similar sentiment.
“I want her death to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion,” she told the Huffington Post.
There is evidence it already is: An online crowdfunding campaign launched over the weekend raised more than $200,000 for Heyer’s family.
Meanwhile, Heyer’s death left her co-workers at the law firm stunned.
“It’s surreal,” Miller Law Group partner Larry Miller told Law.com on Sunday. “I’m in shock. I’m in the office right now. Her chair is where she left it Friday night.”
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