A Florida firefighter has pleaded guilty to a felony charge for his role in the August 2017 Charlottesville Unite The Right rally. 37-year old Tyler Watkins Davis and 36-year old Thomas Walter Gillen were both arrested on Friday, March 23rd after they turned themselves in to police.
The two had been charged with wearing masks while committing an offense, which is punishable by up to three years in prison under Virginia law.
Both Davis and Gillen were with Vanguard America, a white supremacist organization.
Davis was out on $10,000 bond for his arrest stemming from the Charlottesville violence when he pleaded guilty to this violation as part of a plea deal (he faces up to 10 years in prison). Davis is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28th. Gillen is still in custody in Virginia, and is charged in a separate case with malicious wounding.
When he was arrested last August, Davis identified himself as a Florida resident to the Washington Post, but when Charlottesville police issued their arrest warrants on March 9th , they indicated that both men had been living in northern Ohio. Vanguard America has been involved in white supremacist rallies in places like Pikeville, KY; Gettysburg, PA; and New Orleans.
The group’s website states As a right wing organization, our political ideology is simple: We believe that every person of every race, religion, gender, sexua orientation [sic], national origin and ethnicity has the right to pursue life , liberty , and happiness without the intrusion of others who would seek to harm or enslave them.
The group has been linked with James Alex Fields, Jr. who was accused of driving his car into a crowd at the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville , killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens more. Vanguard America denies that Fields was ever a member of their group.
The Washington Post reported in August 2017 that the organization is particularly interested in recruiting young men and has eyed them as a key component of their growth strategy.
In the months following the tragedy in Charlottesville, VA, Davis and Gillen have been staying with friends or family members near Toledo. In November , a member of the gay community in Toledo told me that he’d met up with Davis online for some sexual encounters . A couple of years ago, I received information from an anonymous source that a group of white supremacists were living in another part of Ohio.
A number of people have told me that they know members of the alt-right who live in the Greater Toledo area.
Apparently, the two men decided to turn themselves in after they saw that Davis had been identified as one of the people arrested in Charlottesville.
I reached out to The University Of Toledo and asked if former student Tyler Watkins Davis was enrolled there. The school responded with this statement: On Friday, March 23rd , we were made aware that a student who previously attended UT was indicted on a charge related to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. The University of Toledo does not tolerate hate or criminal acts. As soon as we were notified about this issue, our Office of Student Conduct began an immediate investigation and action on this matter which resulted in the withdrawal of student services and resources defined under the UT Creed.
The University of Toledo does not condone any actions that incite violence or hatred. The University is committed to fostering a safe and inclusive environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors.