BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Tonight, the case against a Ku Klux Klan leader from Baltimore is moving forward.
Richard Preston Jr. faces felony charges for firing a gun during deadly protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. The act was caught on camera.
WJZ investigator Mike Hellgren reports that Preston, a KKK imperial wizard, is scheduled to appear in court later this week on gun charges related to the rally, which was held on the weekend of August 11 and 12.
WJZ has learned that Preston lived in northeast Baltimore, but held KKK gatherings across the area, including in Cecil and Harford counties, and lead a chapter that expanded to almost a dozen states.
All this while keeping a low profile at home. Even neighbors say they never knew.
“I’m shocked… I mean, hell of a nice guy,” said one.
Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, says Klan members are now “trying to be part of the mainstream.”
“They’re trying to brand themselves as ‘We’re not about hate, we’re about a political philosophy,'” he says. “The truth of the matter is, a white supremacist group is a white supremacist group.”
Hate incidents in Maryland are on the rise, up 30 percent between 2015 and 2016 alone, according to State Police.
“It all is so troubling,” Libit says.
In Charlottesville, white supremacists marched again over this past weekend.
Mayor Mike Signer tweeted:
In interviews, Preston has blamed Signer for the goings on in the town.
“That mayor is now responsible for everything that took place, every person that was hurt, every person that died — all of it,” he said.
Right now, Preston remains in jail in Virginia. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted on the gun charge.