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Bond denied for white nationalist who carried tiki torch in 2017

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Crixell Matthews
VPM News
Three people who carried flaming torches through the University of Virginia's campus in 2017 were charged with burning an object with the intent of intimidation.

Tyler Bradley Dykes is charged with burning an object with intent to intimidate for his participation in the tiki torch protest prior to “Unite the Right.”

Two of the torch carriers who marched on the University of Virginia’s campus before 2017’s “Unite the Right” rally had bond hearings in Albemarle County on Friday.

Tyler Bradley Dykes, of Bluffton, South Carolina; William Zachary Smith, of Nacona, Texas; and Dallas Medina, of Ravenna, Ohio, are all charged with burning an object with intent to intimidate. Smith is also charged with maliciously releasing a chemical irritant.

All three are the only currently unsealed indictments among an unknown number of people recently charged by Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office in relation to the 2017 event.

Both Dykes and Smith had bond hearings scheduled for Friday in Albemarle County Circuit Court. Smith’s hearing was rescheduled to May 3 after a lengthy private conversation between Smith and his attorneys, during which everyone was asked to leave the courtroom, including the media.

Medina is set to appear in court on June 5, according to online court records.

Chief Judge Claude Worrell denied bond for Dykes, who he considered a flight risk as an “out-of-state” defendant, and a danger to the public given recent behavior. In new evidence presented by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Lawton Tufts, Dykes is also a suspect in Sumpter County, South Carolina for a Fall 2020 string of vandalisms. There, multiple businesses were tagged with swastikas and the words “We Are Everywhere.”

Scott Dykes, Tyler Dykes’ father, was present at the hearing and testified on his son’s behalf about cooperating with the court if granted bond. When shown photos related to the vandalism investigation, Scott said he recognized the person in the photos as “appearing similarly” to his son.

Tyler Dykes was also dismissed from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in relation to the vandalism investigation — a fact which his father was unaware of when shown the evidence.

Tufts also presented evidence of Tyler’s continued involvement in white nationalist organizing on the messaging platform Telegram, which he used right up until his arrest. One final message read: “Virginia arrested me, nuke my account.”

Tufts also referred to video evidence of the 2017 rally, which showed someone — alleged to be Tyler Dykes — prominent among the torch-carrying marchers, giving what appeared to be a Nazi salute and striking a counterprotester with his torch when a fight broke out between the marchers and counterprotesters.

“He’s still engaging in this behavior,” Tufts said, “and he still remains a safety risk to others and a flight risk.”

Tyler Dykes, who was 19 at the time of the Charlottesville rally, was arrested after going to the hospital to be treated for injuries from dog bites — he was recognized by law enforcement after filing a police report.

Dykes will remain in custody until his trial on June 5 in Albemarle County Circuit Court.

The “burning an object with intent to intimidate” charge carries a maximum five- year prison sentence, while the chemical irritant charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The latest indictments came nearly six years after violence broke out across two days of demonstrations in Charlottesville by white nationalists. Clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters started during the torch march and continued into the “Unite the Right” rally the next day.

Violence that weekend resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer when James Fields rammed his car into a crowd, injuring dozens of others. Several white nationalist leaders were sued in federal court in 2021 over the rally.