CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WSVN) — The father of a woman who, police said, was struck and killed while protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia said his daughter spent her life fighting against hate.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe tweeted out a photo of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, Sunday afternoon. He wrote in part, “She died standing up against hate & bigotry. Her bravery should inspire all to come together.”
Heather’s father, Mark Royce Heyer, spoke to 7News on the phone. “We don’t need to bring any more hate. There’s enough hate going around as it is,” he said. “We need to learn to forgive, and to sit down and have a genuine dialogue, and leave the anger alone. Leave it out of the picture and forgive each other, because if we don’t start forgiving each other, that ties God’s hands from forgiving us all.”
Mark said his daughter was a paralegal who was committed to social justice.
Police said 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. rammed into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Saturday afternoon, fatally striking Heather and injuring well over a dozen others.
Mark’s plea for forgiveness extended to the suspect. “You know, this man who perpetrated this terrible crime, he needs to be forgiven, too. I’m not saying that doesn’t need to pay for what he did, but he needs to be forgiven,” he said. “I can’t hold any animosity and hatred toward that man, because I would be stepping right into the same trap, that everybody else is hating.”
Heather wasn’t the only life lost on Saturday. Officials said two Virginia State Police troopers died when their helicopter crashed near Charlottesville.
Authorities identified the troopers as 48-year-old Pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen and 40-year-old Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.
Officials said the troopers died at the scene after the chopper crashed in a wooded area. They were assisting public safety resources with the clashes in Charlottesville.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Bates would have turned 41 on Sunday.
As for Mark, he reiterated his call to walk away from hatred. “Stop hating, man, stop hating,” he said as he fought back tears. “We all have flaws, we all have differences, we all have things that we’re not proud of proud of. Everybody’s like that. The people who got the idea that one set of people is better than the other? It don’t make no sense, man. We’re all sinners. It’s all on the same playing field.”
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