In August, two men were charged in the beating of a black man during a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., in an assault that was captured on video and widely shared. On Monday, a local magistrate in Charlottesville issued an arrest warrant for the man who was beaten, accusing him of the same felony offense.
DeAndre Harris, 20, was beaten with a metal pipe and wooden boards by at least six men inside a parking garage on Aug. 12, and efforts to identify his assailants became a rallying cry on social media in the days after the “Unite the Right” rally. At least two men were identified, and they were charged with malicious wounding: Alex Michael Ramos, 33; and Daniel P. Borden, 18.
But right-wing critics portrayed Mr. Harris as the instigator, a claim he and his lawyer have strongly denied. The warrant issued on Monday stems from a statement given by one of Mr. Harris’s unnamed assailants, referred to in a police statement as “the victim,” to the authorities. “The victim went to the Magistrate’s office, presented the facts of what occurred and attempted to obtain the warrant,” the police in Charlottesville said in the statement. “The magistrate requested that a detective respond and verify these facts. A Charlottesville Police Department detective did respond, verified the facts and a warrant for Unlawful Wounding (Va Code 18.2-51) was issued.”
The charge of malicious wounding is a felony punishable by one to five years in prison. Mr. Harris will turn himself in to the authorities in the coming days, his lawyer, S. Lee Merritt, said on Tuesday. Mr. Merritt said that the person who brought the complaint had been injured in a separate confrontation, and that the charge had no merit. Mr. Harris, who was holding a flashlight, had been pursued and surrounded, he said. “While he participated in some of the jeering of the white supremacists in his city, letting them know they were not welcome there, he did not instigate any physical assault,” Mr. Merritt said. “That was done by the men carrying blunt objects and weapons.”
The attack in the parking garage was among the most high-profile instances of violence during the Charlottesville rally, a flash point moment in American race relations. Hundreds of white nationalists gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, and a 32-year-old woman, Heather D. Heyer, was killed when a man drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters. The suspected driver, James Alex Fields Jr., was charged with second-degree murder.
Mr. Harris, an instructional aide for children in special education classes, sustained a broken wrist and a head wound that required 10 staples. Moments before the attack in the parking garage, Mr. Harris had intervened in a scuffle after a friend tried to yank a Confederate flag away from a marcher, Mr. Merritt said. “He’s trying to get away,” Mr. Merritt said of Mr. Harris in August. “They are surrounding him and beating him over the head with blunt objects. Their only defense is going to be self-defense, but under no one’s legal standard is it self-defense to chase after someone wielding a flashlight when one of his friends is being speared with a pole, and then beating him maliciously.” After the attack, Mr. Harris quit his job and moved away from Charlottesville, Mr. Merritt said. Mr. Harris was fearful he would be attacked if he returned to Charlottesville, Mr. Merritt said.