Debunking the Conspiracy Theories Surrounding Heather Heyer’s Death on the One Year Anniversary of #UniteTheRight
There has been a ramping up of conspiracy theories about the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Rally to sanitize the history of that horrific event on it’s anniversary.
One particularly egregious theory is that Heather Heyer, the lone civilian casualty at the 2017 rally, wasn’t murdered by an alt-right sympathizer ramming his car into a crowd of people, but rather, from a heart attack brought on by her poor health.
This is false.
There are two straws that the trolls are grasping at:
First, that Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, admitted to the heart attack shortly after her passing.
And second, that Heather Heyer wasn’t even near the car when it slammed into the crowd.
Let’s take a look at the facts.
The first claim is rather easy to disprove. The trolls typically link to an :18 second clip from NBC News where Susan is seen processing her grief with family and giving a statement to the media. The trolls latch on to her saying, quote: “She died pretty instantly, she didn’t suffer. She, uh, died of a heart attack right away at the scene.”
Link to the full clip from NBC News here for context:
So what do we make of this? Well, it’s actually rather simple.
In October, the Medical Examiner’s office released the cause of death, which is separate from the manner of death. The cause of death is the medical reason behind the fatality. The manner of death is the description of the circumstances surrounding the fatality. In this case, the cause of death was ruled to be “Blunt Force Injury to the Chest.” That’s pretty consistent with what we know about her being hit by the car due to her location in the crowd.
This is backed up by The Roanoke Times:
But what about the heart attack comment? Well, if you watched the full context of Susan’s statement in the NBC clip, you’d know that paramedics revived Heather’s heart, only for it to fail right after, which suggests that Heather did not suffer, providing solace to her mother.
Take it a step further and you’ll see that the blunt force trauma of being hit by a car can actually cause a heart attack.
From the Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock in 2010:
“Traffic accidents are the most frequent cause of cardiac contusions resulting from a direct blow to the chest. Other causes of blunt cardiac injury are numerous and include violent fall impacts interpersonal aggression, explosions, and various types of high-risk sports. Myocardial contusion is difficult to diagnose; clinical presentation varies greatly, ranging from lack of symptoms to cardiogenic shock and arrhythmia. Although death is rare, cardiac contusion can be fatal.”
So to recap: Heather Heyer died directly from blunt force injury as per the Medical Examiner’s Office. This kind of injury causes heart attacks. That heart attack, triggered by the crash, may have played a part in the circumstances for her death, but are not listed as the official reason. It simply wouldn’t make sense to do so. If there was no car crash, there was no possibility of a heart attack in that moment.
Like I said, this heinous lie is relatively easy to disprove. The second claim took a little bit more digging. Stay with me here…
Alt right sympathizers have been claiming that Heather was not even near the Dodge Challenger at all when it came through the crowd. Their proof? Usually, a low resolution & cropped photo that purports to show “Heather” deep in the thick of the crowd and safely away from the car as it impacts the group. They basically claim that she was never hit by the car, that she died from a heart attack from the fear of seeing the crash, and that James Alex Fields JR. (the driver) is not guilty.
An example of this kind of manipulative posting can be found here:
If you only give this a cursory glance, this can look pretty damning. Heather is seen in all black in the photos on the left, and conveniently circled in the photo of the right.
Except….that’s not Heather circled in the photo on the right. To the evidence:
This photograph has had the color edited to clearly highlight Heather Heyer’s position right in front of the dodge before it hits her, not safely in the back of the crowd.
Not convinced that’s her at the front? Ok, well here’s a video showing Heather walking in the crowd, near the truck pictured, at the front, where she would eventually get hit. I recommend playing in slow-motion for a better shot. Notice her braided hair. That will come up again.
Next, we look to the most viral photo from that horrific day:
You’ve probably already seen this. It’s graphic nature carries a sort of morbid appeal. Behind the gentleman with the back tattoo who has been flipped over appears to be Heather Heyer being tossed to the sidewalk with the impact of the crash. Also, take note of the gentleman who rolled over the car with the red and white sneakers. He is in the previous clip from the Ellen show showing Heather near the front of the crowd when the car hits. He was a friend of Heather’s.
Now let’s take down the cropped photo. Here is the higher resolution, fully formatted original copy of that photo:
Notice anything? How about in the top left corner? You should see the Truck and our victim with the red and white sneakers. This places Heather at the site of the crash, as she was seen on video with these folks, which would explain why she died from “blunt force injury” to the chest and possible heart problems upon being hit. Now look one parking space ahead. Pay attention to the red flag near the car because it will come up later.
So what about the woman who trolls claim is Heather Heyer? Well, zoom into her hair. Yes, her hair. Notice anything? A bun. No braid. In fact, her bun isn’t even a braid wound up. It’s just a loose ponytail made into a bun.
Heather Heyer’s hair was braided, which we see in the Ellen clip. This woman, wearing black like a lot of the anti-racist protestors that day, does not have a braid. This indicates that the trolls are pointing to a random white woman in the crowd and calling her Heather Heyer.
Still not convinced? Well, ok. Let’s just look at the last two pieces of evidence.
This is an image of medics attempting to tend to Heather and another victim upon being hit. Pay special attention to the camo shorts that the man has on.
This is a clip from one of the victims of that crowd attack. Watch in slow-mo. On the truck at the :03 mark? Our victim in the red and white sneakers. And who lays on the ground being attended by medics one parking space in front of that truck at the :30 mark? The man in camo shorts and a woman in all black. And who is standing right behind them at the :34 mark? The man with the red flag.
So, in other words, Heather Heyer was:
1) At the front of the crowd
2) Near the truck
3) With her friends
4) Before being tossed to the ground lifelessly next to a man in camo shorts where she would eventually die from that blunt force trauma.
Her heart may have stopped in that moment but it’s specifically because of her being hurt in the crash.
So why did I go through the trouble of sifting through all of this for these tiny details? Well, in my experience, most lies and intentional falsehoods fall apart when you look at the details. And lies and intentional falsehoods greatly upset me. I prefer to peddle in truth.
Know the facts. Know the details. Don’t lie for your own agenda.
Oh, and don’t be a fucking Nazi.