Man arrested for firing gun at Charlottesville protest

More than two weeks following the combative demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., left one person dead and many others injured, police have arrested a man for discharging a handgun within 1,000 feet of a school, according to CNN and other news agencies.

In an era of instant news, it has taken a very long time for a video of the incident to surface. It has even made it to YouTube, courtesy of the IB Times in the United Kingdom, and Al Jazeera (English).

Nobody was hit — the bullet was apparently fired into the ground in the direction of another man who was holding what appears to have been a makeshift flamethrower — but the incident has the potential to underscore criticism from the left about carrying firearms to a demonstration.

The ACLU of Virginia had the video and provided copies to the FBI and Virginia State Police several days ago. Here is a statement from the ACLU about that:

“Our staff gave a copy of the video to the FBI on Aug. 17, and forwarded copies to the Virginia State Police and the Charlottesville Police Department on Aug. 20. We have offered to turn over all other photos and videos our representatives captured that day if law enforcement wants them.

“Our staff discovered the video during a routine review of all photos and videos taken by staff and volunteers on the scene. Upon discovery, because it appeared to document a person firing a gun at another person, we turned the video over to law enforcement agencies investigating civil rights violations and other criminal acts committed before and during the rally and after it was dispersed.

“We believe that the public interest is best served by transparency. Our decision to release the video of this significant event is consistent with our regular calls for law enforcement to release body-camera video that depicts any incident of public concern.

“Our goals continue to be to assist in the arrest and prosecution of anyone who committed a crime or civil rights violation on Aug. 12, to encourage law enforcement agencies by example to act to restore public confidence by releasing their full tactical plan and training materials for Aug. 12, and to help ensure that future events will be safer for everyone involved.”

The suspect is identified as Richard Wilson Preston. 52. According to CNN, the charge is serious. If convicted, Preston could spend up to ten years in prison.

The video was apparently made by the ACLU of Virginia staff or volunteer during the protest of Aug. 12. In the background after the shot was fired and the suspect was walking away, a line of police can be observed standing by, but taking no immediate action.

The protest came at a “Unite the Right” rally that drew counter-protesters. Several people at the rally were visibly armed, some with long guns, others with handguns.

While the First Amendment protects freedom of speech and the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms, they may not cover the discharge of a firearm as depicted in the video.


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