Po­lice: Army vet drove into peo­ple think­ing they were Mus­lim

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY JANIE HAR

An Iraq War veteran de­lib­er­ately drove into a group of pedes­tri­ans be­cause he thought some of the peo­ple were Mus­lim, Cal­i­for­nia au­thor­i­ties said Fri­day.

Isaiah Joel Peo­ples, 34, faces eight counts of at­tempted mur­der for in­jur­ing eight peo­ple, in­clud­ing four who re­main hos­pi­tal­ized. The most se­ri­ously injured is a 13year-old Sunnyvale girl of South Asian de­scent who is in a coma with se­vere brain trauma.

“New ev­i­dence shows that the de­fen­dant in­ten­tion­ally tar­geted the vic­tims based on their race and his be­lief that they were of the Mus­lim faith,” Sunnyvale po­lice chief Phan Ngo said.

Peo­ples ap­peared briefly in Santa Clara County Su­pe­rior Court on Fri­day. He did not en­ter a plea and is be­ing held with­out bail. The for­mer U.S. Army sharp­shooter ex­pe­ri­enced post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der af­ter serv­ing in Iraq, his fam­ily said. Peo­ples’ at­tor­ney, Chuck Smith, said Fri­day that the crash was in no way de­lib­er­ate.

“This act was clearly the prod­uct of some mental dis­or­der or mental de­fect,” Smith said af­ter the hearing.

Peo­ples was on his way to a Bible class Tues­day in the Sil­i­con Val­ley sub­urb of Sunnyvale when he told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he in­ten­tion­ally drove into a group of men, women and chil­dren, po­lice said. The 13-yearold girl was hit along with her fa­ther and brother, who had mi­nor in­juries.

Jay Bo­yarsky, chief as­sis­tant district at­tor­ney for Santa Clara, said the charges carry a sen­tence of life in prison. He said they will file hate crime al­le­ga­tions if war­ranted.

“There is very ap­palling and dis­turb­ing ev­i­dence that at least one or two of these vic­tims were tar­geted based on the de­fen­dant’s view of what their race or re­li­gion may have been,” he said.

Three adults also re­main hos­pi­tal­ized with in­juries that in­clude bro­ken limbs and frac­tures.

Peo­ples showed no re­morse af­ter his car plowed at high speed into a group of peo­ple in a cross­walk be­fore hit­ting a tree, Ngo said.

Witness Don Draper said he marched over to Peo­ples’ car af­ter he crashed, and he found the driver mut­ter­ing over and over, “Thank you, Je­sus. Thank you, Je­sus.”

But Ngo said that “he did not be­have in any man­ner that would be con­sid­ered bizarre,” when taken into cus­tody.

Fam­ily and friends de­scribed Peo­ples as quiet and po­lite and ex­pressed shock at his in­volve­ment. His mother, Leev­ell Peo­ples of Sacra­mento, said her son had “a bad episode” with PTSD in 2015, for which he was hos­pi­tal­ized.

Peo­ples was de­ployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2006.

Peo­ples was hon­or­ably dis­charged from the Army, and po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the PTSD re­port, Ngo said. Peo­ples had no criminal record and owned one weapon, a dis­as­sem­bled and in­op­er­a­ble shot­gun that was in the trunk of his ve­hi­cle.


This im­age taken from video shows the scene of a car crash where sev­eral pedes­tri­ans were struck and injured in Sunnyvale on Tues­day. Four of the pedes­tri­ans struck in the in­ci­dent re­main hos­pi­tal­ized.

Isaiah Joel Peo­ples

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