Dillon Hopper, the self-styled commander of the Vanguard America group that attacker James Fields marched with, was an officer in the US marine corps
The leader of the neo-Nazi group that James Fields marched with in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday before allegedly killing a protester with his car served in the US marine corps until earlier this year. Dillon Hopper, the self-styled commander of Vanguard America, is a recently retired marine staff sergeant and veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Members of his white supremacist group marched in Virginia last weekend. Hopper, 29, has been using his former name, Dillon Irizarry, when appearing in public for Vanguard America. But he officially changed his name to Dillon Ulysses Hopper in November 2006, according to court records in his native New Mexico. Hoppers active duty with the marines ended in January this year, according to a Department of Defense record. He has lived in California and Ohio since returning to the US. Hoppers full service record could not immediately be obtained. His Facebook avatar is currently a cartoon image of Donald Trump building a wall. Hopper and Vanguard America did not respond to messages seeking comment. Hoppers identity was first reported by Splinter. Fields, a 20-year-old military bootcamp dropout from Maumee, Ohio, has been charged with crimes including murder after allegedly driving his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people in Charlottesville who were demonstrating against the far-right. The crash killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured about 20 others. Donald Trump finally condemns racism in Charlottesville Fields had been photographed standing among members of Vanguard America earlier in the day. He was pictured holding a shield bearing the groups logo and was wearing the same distinctive outfit white polo shirt and khakis as many Vanguard members. The group has said, however, that Fields is not a member. Vanguard America is only about a year old. It is one of a handful of new white supremacist organizations that are attempting to radicalize young white men across the country. Its manifesto is racist and its website URL references the Nazi slogan blood and soil. The group bars people who are not of white European heritage.
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Dillon Hopper speaking in Pikeville, Kentucky. Photograph: YouTube In an interview with the Guardian in May, a Vanguard America organizer from Texas, who would identify himself only as a vice commander named Thomas, said that a large percentage of Vanguards members are college-aged, and that most are in their early twenties. Members must be aged between 18 and 45. Like Identity Evropa, a similar white nationalist group, Vanguard America seeks to recruit clean-cut, more professional white men, rebranding racist organizing in a preppier image. Visible neck and hand tattoos, for instance, are discouraged, and one organizer said that obese men would be disqualified from joining. We also uphold standards of dress and grooming and physical fitness because our ideology is one of strength and purity and self-improvement, he said. Thomas would not provide any details about the groups process for vetting members, other than to say that it included an interview. A questionnaire once used by the group for screening, which was obtained by the Guardian, asked for details of applicants professions, beliefs and criminal histories. It asked how often they consumed tobacco or alcohol and how long youve been red pilled, a phrase used on the far-right to mean aware of supposed difficult truths. Vanguard America has attracted attention by putting up racist posters on college campuses in areas such as Maryland, Washington DC and Texas. In May, a 23-year-old black college student was stabbed to death by a white man on the University of Marylands campus. Richard Collins III, was about to graduate, and had just been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US army. The alleged killer had been part of a Facebook group named Alt-Reich, authorities said. The Vanguard America spokesman objected to links between made between Collinss stabbing and the white nationalist posters that had appeared on campus. There are murders of all ideologies, he said, going on to say: We dont promote this kind of action.