FBI Removes Charlottesville Tips Page, Less Than Two Months After Deadly Rally

HFM for PM story**In this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 image provided by by Zach D. Roberts, Deandre Harris, bottom is assaulted in a parking garage beside the Charlottesville police station after a white nationalist rally was disbursed by police, in Charlottesville, Va. (Zach D. Roberts via AP)
Zach D. Roberts/Zach D. Roberts

The FBI deactivated a tips website that had previously been used to accept information on possible crimes committed during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 11-13, the bureau confirmed to TPM Wednesday.

The website, fbi.org/charlottesvile, had served as a portal for individuals with information on potential criminal activity at the rally to report it to law enforcement. Other tips lines following mass shootings stayed up for at least 10 months, according to the journalist who first reported on the deleted page.

In a statement to TPM, Nora Scheland, an FBI spokesperson, suggested such tips pages are deactivated “[o]nce the bulk of the media is collected.” (Read Scheland’s statement below.) When TPM asked if the bureau risked missing crucial information as a result of removing the tips page, Scheland said “we are still seeking tips.” She did not specify on what date the tips page was deactivated.

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a white supremacist allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at the Charlottesville rally. The alleged driver, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and malicious wounding, among other charges.

Three individuals have so far been arrested for the brutal beating of Deandre Harris, 20, in a parking garage next to the Charlottesville police station. And KKK leader Richard Preston was arrested for firing a gun at a crowd of counter-protesters at the event.

The Memory Hole first reported the tips page’s disappearance. According to internet archives of the working tips page, the publication noted, it went offline sometime between Sept. 19 and Oct. 1.

Russ Kick, the Memory Hole’s proprietor, noted that similar tips pages dedicated to information on the 2016 mass shootings in Dallas and Orlando stayed online for at least 10 and 11 months each.

Journalist and activist Shaun King has led a crowd-sourced effort to identify Harris’ assailants, and he claimed Wednesday following the third arrest related to the beating that two more yet-unidentified men were still at large.

King told the Intercept in September that a few days after he identified the first two known suspects in Harris’ beating, “two different agents from the FBI reached out to me and asked me if I would give them everything I had and I did.”

King said in the interview that during his conversations with the FBI, “it was clear like they explicitly told me that everything they knew about the incident that they got from my timeline.”

In an email to TPM Thursday, King said his comment to the Intercept, where he now works as a columnist, was “still very true” that the FBI has “done nothing. Nothing at all. Every person arrested has been found by us – completely.”

Read the FBI’s statement regarding the deactivation of the Charlottesville tips page:

“The digital media tips webpage established relative to the violent activity in Charlottesville, VA on the weekend of August 11-13, 2017 has been deactivated. The FBI activates the digital media tips line in the aftermath of large-scale incidents where there may be a significant amount of digital media submitted through the tips line. Once the bulk of the media is collected, the FBI always continues to ask anyone with information, tips, or digital media tips to submit the information and tips to us.

At all times the FBI encourages anyone with information related to suspicious activity, missing persons, fugitives, or other ongoing investigative activity, to submit tips to tips.fbi.gov, by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI, or by reaching out to an FBI field office.”

This post has been updated.

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