Administration

UVa Employee Suffers a Stroke After Campus Clash With White Supremacists

August 16, 2017

Tyler Magill joined a group of counterprotesters surrounded by white supremacists near UVa's Rotunda. "I figured if they're willing to kill 25 people," he said, "maybe they're not willing to kill 26."
Tyler D.R. Magill, an employee with the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library, suffered a stroke Tuesday that may be related to injuries he sustained in a violent melee with white supremacists on the university’s Lawn Friday night, a friend of his family confirmed Wednesday.

Mr. Magill was admitted around 10 a.m. Tuesday to the university’s medical center, where doctors found that his carotid artery was partially dissected, causing a clot that resulted in a stroke, Mr. Magill’s wife confirmed to The Chronicle through a family friend. Doctors at the medical center suspect that the stroke is the result of blunt force trauma to the neck, the source told The Chronicle.

A spokesman for the university's medical center said Wednesday that Mr. Magill was in fair condition at the hospital.

Mr. Magill, 46, works in the university’s library as an liaison with Ivy Stacks, UVa’s offsite shelving facility. He drew attention when a video surfaced recently in which he followed Jason Kessler, an organizer of the “Unite the Right Rally,” as state police escorted Mr. Kessler away from a press conference outside Charlottesville City Hall. Mr. Magill called Mr. Kessler responsible for the death of Heather D. Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was fatally struck by a vehicle that rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters Saturday.

“Her name was Heather, Jason,” Mr. Magill can be heard saying, raising his arms in the air as he follows Mr. Kessler down a sidewalk. “Her blood is on your hands. Her blood is on your hood.”

If Mr. Magill’s injuries are linked to the violence Friday, it could raise further questions about whether the university and law enforcement put people at risk by failing to be more proactive and forceful in response to a gathering of hundreds of white nationalists carrying torches and chanting racial epithets on Virginia’s historic Grounds. The march descended into chaos as the group surrounded a statue of Thomas Jefferson, where they had a confrontation with about 20 counterprotesters.

Witnesses say that white nationalists at the rally used torches as weapons and deployed pepper spray, but until now only minor injuries have been associated with the episode. A university police officer was among the injured.

University police have not been made available to answer questions about how they responded to the rally, despite numerous requests from The Chronicle.

In a statement Tuesday, Teresa A. Sullivan, the university's president, emphasized that Virginia is a public institution that recognizes “the general public’s right to access outdoor spaces.” She acknowledged, however, that tough questions about the university’s response warrant “frank conclusions.”

“They Were On Us, Frothing”

On Monday, before he was admitted to the hospital, Mr. Magill spoke with The Chronicle about his experience Friday night. While seated at Low Vintage, a packed and colorful secondhand clothing-and-antiques store in Charlottesville where he sells records, Mr. Magill described the evening’s ominous beginnings.

“I saw the first car pull up,” he said. “People were acting sketchy.”

He said he saw men gathering at Nameless Field, an outdoor field between the gymnasium and the library, around 7:30 p.m. Mr. Magill, who described himself not as a part of any activist group but as a believer in social justice, said he felt compelled to act. He directed cars away from the gathering and called 911 around 8:30, when he saw the men had torches.

He watched the group swell to several hundred marchers and make its way into the heart of the campus while chanting slogans: “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”

“They marched up the lawn in an endless line,” Mr. Magill said. “At this point I was so shellshocked I sat down on the steps of the Rotunda. They just walked around me chanting. I saw they were starting to surround 20 or 30 students.”

At that point, Mr. Magill recalled, he felt the students were in serious danger.

“I was just thinking, Be with them; maybe my presence will change something,” he said. “I figured if they’re willing to kill 25 people, maybe they’re not willing to kill 26.”

He rushed over to join the group. “I linked arms with them and they were on us, frothing,” he said. “It was like that for I don’t know for how long. Liquid splashed on to us and then torches.”

Three days later, Mr. Magill described himself as traumatized by the event. Between long pauses to collect himself, he said he could not understand why campus police officers, who he said were present, did not try to stop the march sooner. And he was disheartened by an interview Ms. Sullivan conducted with The Chronicle. In that interview, she said she was blindsided by the size and scope of the rally.

“I take issue with her claiming that she did not know that this was coming,” he said.

Mostly, he expressed concern for the safety of UVa students.

“I’ve had a life,” he said. “But these kids are 20.”

Mr. Magill’s supporters and friends have created a page on GoFundMe, the crowdfunding site, to pay for his medical care. At press time, more than $53,000 had been raised.

Update (8/16/2017, 11:39 a.m.): This article has been updated to add information provided by Mr. Magill's family. 

Jack Stripling covers college leadership, particularly presidents and governing boards. Follow him on Twitter @jackstripling, or email him at jack.stripling@chronicle.com.

Nell Gluckman writes about faculty issues and other topics in higher education. You can follow her on Twitter @nellgluckman, or email her at nell.gluckman@chronicle.com.