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Unite the Right Marcher Kills Himself Before Drug Trafficking Trial

Tiki torch-wielding Unite the Right rally participant Teddy Von Nukem committed suicide on January 30, 2023. Von Nukem was scheduled to go on trial for drug trafficking, but shot himself behind a shed at his home in Missouri on the day he was due to appear in court. Von Nukem was also involved in a brutal attack on a Black assistant school teacher named DeAndre Harris in Charlottesville, which I caught on camera while reporting on the Unite the Right rally for the Palast Investigative Fund in 2017. However, Von Nukem was never charged for his role in this crime, though law enforcement did eventually catch up with him.

Nukem can be seen bottom center, wearing all black at the August 11, 2017 Tiki-torch rally in Charlottesville. Photo: © Zach D. Roberts, 2017

According to a report by The Daily Beast, “Customs and Border Protection agents discovered 15 kilograms of fentanyl pills hidden behind the seats and floor compartment of his 2019 Nissan Pathfinder.” Von Nukem, who legally changed his name from Teddy Landrum in 2012, claimed that he was paid around $215 to take a “load” across the Mexican border in his car, but was unaware that it contained narcotics.

Von Nukem was pictured in one of the most shared images of the two-day Unite the Right rally, which took place on August 11-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. During the far right event — which was organized by several neo-Nazi groups including Vanguard America, Identity Europa, League of the South, the National Front, the National Socialist Movement, and the Ku Klux Klan — there were numerous violent incidents, including the brutal assault of assistant school teacher DeAndre Harris, and the murder of activist Heather Heyer, who was deliberately mown down by a car.

In this image by Andrew Shurtleff of The Daily Progress, embedded in a Twitter thread by Charlottesville journalist Molly Conger, Von Nukem can be seen center, dressed in black.

I covered the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville for the Palast Investigative Fund, and captured the activities of the far right rallygoers in photos and on video. The images I captured of the savage beating of Harris with iron bars and lumber on August 12, 2017 — which occurred in a garage next door to a police station — were widely shared on social media, and were picked up by the mainstream media and used in many television and newspaper reports. These images also helped secure the convictions of four of the seven main perpetratorsDaniel Borden, Alex Michael Ramos, Jacob Goodwin, and Tyler Watkins Davis. But Von Nukem, who was involved in the attack on Harris, escaped justice for his actions (along with two others, who’ve yet to be identified). So, this week I offered my photo catalog to Conger, who delved into hundreds of my photos and videos to track the movements of Von Nukem. After analyzing these images, Conger found several that show Von Nukem wielding Tiki torches and batons. He can also be seen in the parking garage when Harris was assaulted.

Even after the Unite the Right rally was officially declared over by authorities on August 12, 2017, hundreds of white supremacists, Nazis, and neo-Confederates continued to march through the streets causing havoc. As was extensively documented during the Sines v. Kessler trial — a civil suit brought by nine named victims and a John Doe plaintiff against the far-right instigators of the violence — the Unite the Right rallygoers came prepared, carrying batons, poles, bear mace, firearms, and shields that purposely had sharp protrusions.

Marching down East Market Street, Von Nukem is seen with Daniel Borden and Jacob Goodwin, who were successfully prosecuted for their part in the brutal assault of DeAndre Harris. Notations by Molly Conger. Photo: © Zach D. Roberts, 2017.

Dressed in all black, wearing wrap-around sunglasses and carrying pepper spray and a baton, Von Nukem was caught on camera as he marched with the other men that nearly killed Harris that day. In the image below, he is seen walking with a group of Traditional Workers Party and League of South members as they marched from the initial rallying point, Lee Park — or as it was known at the time, Emancipation Park — towards the Market Street garage where many of their cars were parked.

Von Nukem is seen with the baton and pepper spray that he would later use to attack DeAndre Harris. The still unidentified man that pulled a handgun as I captured the attack in the garage on camera, and ‘Red Beard’ who attacked Harris are also seen here. Notations by Molly Conger. Photo: © Zach D. Roberts, 2017.

Von Nukem, like many of the Unite the Right white supremacists and Nazis, reveled in their images being spread. In text messages he sent to Alt-Right talk show host and Unite the Right rally headliner Christopher Cantwell, which were released during the Sines v. Kessler lawsuit, Von Nukem bragged, “I’m the most alpha looking” and “Holy sh*t that picture is front page on daily stormer [an infamous neo-Nazi website and forum].”

Von Nukem’s text messages, which were released during the Sines v. Kessler lawsuit

Von Nukem went on to discuss his involvement with the brutal attack on Harris that I documented, bragging to his fellow marchers, “I’m the guy that cracked **** in the face with the baton and was shouting ‘back the f**k off.’”

In a Twitter thread detailing the results of her research on Von Nukem, Conger says, “I reviewed footage of the assault frame by frame and have identified the baton blow Von Nukem bragged about delivering. After the 6 primary assailants had finished, the victim attempted to flee. Injured, disoriented, and running for his life, he was then struck by a 7th man.” That seventh man was Von Nukem. You can watch Von Nukem pepper spray and take a swing at Harris with a baton in this compilation of three videos, shot by three different people, from three different angles, and edited together by Conger [content warning]:

When law enforcement finally showed up at the garage adjoining the police station, they allowed Von Nukem and all the other men that had assaulted Harris to leave the crime scene and go home. Von Nukem can be seen in the image below talking with a Virginia State Police officer in the same parking garage where the attack happened.

Law enforcement allow DeAndre Harris’s assailants to leave the scene of the crime. Photo: © Zach D. Roberts, 2017.

Von Nukem was an avowed Trump supporter and remained unappolgetic about his role in the violence that occurred in Charlottesville. When a local newspaper, the Springfield News Leader, questioned Von Nukem about his actions, he wouldn’t denounce what had happened that day, saying, “Politics is violence. Period. End of story.”

The assault of DeAndre Harris. For Von Nukem, this was just “politics”. Photo: © Zach D. Roberts, 2017.

Acting with a prescient sense of impunity, after the assault, Von Nukem stuck around to see his handiwork, standing next to photographers and law enforcement officers as Harris, who was bleeding heavily, was eventually rushed away from the scene by his friends. You can see Von Nukem and Harris, after the attack, in this video I took that day.

Thanks to Molly Conger for her research on Von Nukem. You can support her work here.

Zach D Roberts is an investigative photojournalist who covers far-right extremism and voter suppression in America. He covered the Unite the Right Rally in Chalottesville and his work there helped put four white extremists in jail. He co-produced Greg Palast's films The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Vigilantes, Inc: America’s Vote Suppression Hitmen (out Fall 2024). Roberts is a Palast Investigative Fund Fellow and Puffin artist grant recipient.

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