Avowed KKK leader who drove through crowd at BLM protest in Henrico gets 6-year sentence; he still faces felony counts

Richmond Times-Dispatch/August 10, 2020

By Ali Rocket

A Hanover County man and avowed Ku Klux Klan leader boasted on social media shortly after he drove through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Henrico County in June, according to video shown during a trial on Monday.

“They scattered like cockroaches,” said Harry H. Rogers, 36, in a Facebook live video he posted after the June 7 incident, in which no one was seriously injured, and shortly before he was arrested by Henrico police. “It’s kind of funny if you ask me.”

Rogers was convicted Monday of six misdemeanors, but no hate crime, and sentenced to 12 months in jail for each. He still faces three felony charges of attempted malicious wounding — one count for each of the three people struck — in connection with the same incident.

The three felony counts were also certified Monday by the same Henrico County General District Court judge who found him guilty of four simple assaults, property damage and hit-and-run.

The felony counts will be heard by a grand jury in September.

The incident unfolded around 5:45 p.m. June 7 on Lakeside Avenue near Vale Street. Several witnesses reported seeing a blue Chevrolet pickup truck, driven by Rogers, headed south passing the march, which was headed north.

The truck turned around, drove onto the median northbound to catch up to the crowd, then re-entered the travel lanes, revved its engine and drove through protesters marching in the roadway.

Two people who were struck by Rogers testified. A third victim was identified only as John Doe.

Richard Sebastian was on a cargo bicycle, carrying water and other aid equipment, acting as a buffer between the oncoming traffic and the marchers he was trailing. He had stopped for water when he noticed the loud, revving blue truck approach the rear of the march.

“He looked very determined,” Sebastian testified Monday.

He positioned himself, and his bike, in front of the truck toward the passenger side; another, unidentified cyclist was on the driver’s side. Both were struck by Rogers’ truck, according to prosecutors. Sebastian’s bike was damaged and his foot was run over, though he brushed off the injury during his testimony Monday, saying he only had some bruising around his big toe.

“I was terrified,” he said after Rogers’ defense attorney, George Townsend, asked why he deliberately put himself in the path of the vehicle. “What I thought of immediately was what happened in Charlottesville, and thinking it could happen here.”

Several others referenced the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, during which Heather Heyer, a counterprotester, was killed when a white nationalist rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters. Police have said Rogers attended the earlier rally and later protested at Heyer’s funeral.

“I just wanted to keep his attention towards me rather than finding others to hit,” said demonstrator Mary Repole, who was hit by Rogers’ truck twice. During one encounter, she said, she jumped on the hood to avoid being pulled under the vehicle. Repole said the impact aggravated her chronic back pain, which she had treated by a chiropractor.

At one point, Rogers stopped and exited the vehicle, puffing his chest and showing off the pistol on his hip, according to the witnesses. His teenage son was in the passenger seat. He later told police that a protester had hit his son, but there was no evidence to support that. Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said Rogers lied.

Townsend unsuccessfully argued that the only marchers who were struck deliberately put themselves in the path of the vehicle, which he repeatedly described as moving “at a walking pace.”

After clearing the procession, which was predominately on foot at that point, Rogers drove to the A.P. Hill monument, located just over the county line in Richmond, at the intersection of Hermitage Road and Laburnum Avenue. A second part of the day’s demonstration was set to take place there, and police were called when the crowd saw Rogers.

Police searched Rogers’ vehicle and the home he shares with his girlfriend and their son. Authorities found several firearms, including an assault-style rifle and the pistol Rogers had with him at the time of the incident, as well as a vest with extended magazine clips and ammunition. They also found memorabilia linking Rogers to the KKK, including patches, literature and a “green grand dragon robe.”

Sgt. Douglas Wood, head of the operational intelligence unit, commonly referred to as the gang unit, said one document found in Rogers’ glove box was “like a book of the Bible” to KKK members. “The Practice of Klanishness” lays out members’ ideology of racial superiority.

Wood acknowledged that the KKK is not classified as a gang in the state, but that some of his law enforcement training addressed the Klan’s connection to illicit activities.

An associate had tipped Rogers off to the march before he had even encountered the protesters. On his way to the march, Rogers took to Facebook Live encouraging followers to head to the A.P. Hill Monument.

“Let’s go have some fun,” he said in the recording, emphasizing and drawing out the word fun.

Later, he boasted in a video about driving through the crowd.

“He was proud of what he was doing,” Taylor said. “His intent was to go down there and instill fear.”

Judge Thomas O. Bondurant Jr. did not uphold a hate crime enhancement on the four simple assault charges sought by prosecutors, agreeing instead with Townsend, who argued that the three victims, all of whom are white, were not targeted because of their race. But Bondurant invoked the maximum sentence even without that enhancement.

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