KKK Imperial Wizard from Baltimore Charged with Firing Gun at Violent Charlottesville Rally

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Still via ACLU of Virginia/Twitter

A Baltimore resident who leads Rosedale’s Ku Klux Klan chapter was arrested Saturday after the release of a video that appears to show him shooting at a black counter-protester at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Richard Preston, 52, was charged in Virginia with discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school, according to a release shared by Charlottesville TV news station NBC29. He’s been at the Baltimore County Detention Center since Saturday, facing with an additional count of being a fugitive in Virginia, court records show. He resides on Cedonia Avenue in Northeast Baltimore’s Cedmont neighborhood.

While we’re now two weeks removed from the violent Aug. 12 unrest in Charlottesville in which white nationalists and neo-Nazis clashed with counter-protesters, police in Virginia are still trying to track down people captured on video fueling the fire that day. By the evening, three people were dead and 35 injured. Hundreds of white nationalists convened in the historic town that day, saying they wanted to protect a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee that had proposed for removal.

The ACLU of Virginia last week released the clip that police say shows Preston shooting a gun at someone very close by. The video appears to show him clad in a bulletproof vest, bucking at a black protester wielding a homemade flamethrower, then pulling out a handgun. (Someone also shouts the n-word, though it’s unclear if it was Preston.) He then allegedly fires a shot in the protester’s direction, turns around and strolls by a line state troopers who stand idly by, protected by barricades.

The ACLU said in a statement that it sent the video to the FBI on Aug. 17, and forwarded copies to Charlottesville and Virginia State Police on Aug. 20.

Preston has identified himself for years as the imperial wizard of the Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan chapter in Rosedale. In 2013, he presided over a recruitment meeting in Cecil County, according to The News-Journal of Wilmington, Del. There, he actually tried to convince the crowd, which included black attendees, that the KKK is not a hate group. “We can only ask you to trust us,” he told them.

Rosedale’s KKK chapter is one of 18 hate groups in Maryland today, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Annapolis also has a chapter, and Rising Sun is rumored to have a known Klan presence.

Some have wondered aloud how Preston could have fired a shot in someone’s direction and calmly gotten away while walking by state troopers. Protesters from both sides have said they suspected Virginia State Police of intentionally trying not to intervene on Aug. 12, even as people were being bloodied in the streets.

A spokeswoman for the agency told The New York Times, which first reported on the video Friday, that troopers simply did not hear the gunshot. Corinne Geller told the paper the gunshot was “muffled by the loud volume of the crowd yelling and chanting, drums and music.” Plenty of others said the shot was very audible, even from inside the park where the rest of the cacophony was happening.

Preston was previously charged in 2003 with assault and use of a deadly weapon with intent to injure, court records show. He was found not guilty on two of his five charges, and took a plea deal for three others.

He wasn’t the only one arrested weeks after the deadly unrest in Charlottesville. NBC29 reports police also arrested an Ohio man for his alleged role in the ugly beating of DeAndre Harris in a parking garage, and are searching for a suspected accomplice who lives in Georgia.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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