A white nationalist who once lived in Stony Brook surrendered to police Wednesday to face felony charges stemming from a confrontation with counterdemonstrators the day before a melee that resulted in one death in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to media reports.
Christopher Cantwell turned himself in to police in Lynchburg, Virginia, CNN reported. A Lynchburg police spokesman was not immediately available.
The AP reported that Cantwell said he was acting in self-defense when he pepper-sprayed a counterdemonstrators Aug. 11 on the grounds of the University of Virginia.
Cantwell also said he had been trying for days to find out whether he had outstanding warrants but only recently became “convinced” they existed. Lynchburg is about an hour’s drive from the University of Virginia.
University police said Cantwell, most recently a resident of Keene, New Hampshire, is wanted on three felony charges: two counts of the illegal use of tear gas or other gases and one count of malicious bodily injury with a “caustic substance,” explosive or fire, the AP said.
Cantwell was being held overnight at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, a jail spokesman said.
Cantwell could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a car slammed into a crowd protesting the rally on Aug. 12. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, has been charged in the death.
Politicians on Long Island said Cantwell attempted to run for Congress in the 1st Congressional District on the East End in 2009 but failed to collect enough nominating signatures to qualify on the Libertarian Party line.
He attended Ward Melville High School in East Setauket. Court records show he had arrests in Suffolk County on charges such as DWI and possession of stolen property and served several months in jail.
As recently as 2014, Cantwell was a featured speaker at the Suffolk County Libertarian Party’s annual fundraiser at a Babylon restaurant, according to Suffolk Libertarian Party chairman Michael McDermott. “There was no indication of hatred or violence” on Cantwell’s part, McDermott said.
In a video documentary from Vice News that was viewed by millions of people, Cantwell brags about his capacity for violence. He and others chant anti-Semitic slogans as they march with torches to a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Facebook banned Cantwell, and YouTube has removed his videos, for violating their policies on hate speech.
With Ellen Yan