Man who drove car into eight people thought they were Muslims, police say

Isaiah Peoples (left) appears for his arraignment in Santa Clara County Superior Court with his lawyer Chuck Smith (right) by his side.[(Jim Gensheimer/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool]

A man who ploughed his car into a group of pedestrians at a busy road in California specifically targeted Muslims, police said.

The attack which occurred on Tuesday 23 April in Sunnyvale has left four victims in a critical situation – three under 18-years-olds and a 13-year-old girl.

Isaiah Peoples, 34, now faces eight counts of attempted murder in which eight people were injured.

Chief Phan Ngo, of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference on Friday 26 April that additional evidence suggested that the perpetrator “intentionally targeted the victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim faith”.

However, the chief did not elaborate on how the police obtained the evidence pointing to a possible anti-Muslim motive, saying that the investigation was still ongoing.

Chief Ngo said: “The only thing that we can confirm at this time is that on the day of the incident, he had picked up some food and that he was on his way to deliver the food to his Bible study group.”

Chief assistant district attorney of Santa Clara County, Jay Boyarsky, said at the news conference that “there is no hate crime allegation at this point in time, for one reason only: The matter is still being investigated.”

A number of the charges against Peoples already carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Mr Boyarsky added that there was “very appalling and disturbing evidence” that at least one or two of the victims were targeted “based on the defendant’s view of what their race or religion may have been”.

Captain Jim Choi of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety said there was no signs that the attack terrorism-related.

Nevertheless, he added that the department was “still waiting to know more” based on a search of the attacker’s mobile phone and computer.

Peoples who is a Sunnyvale resident appeared in court last Friday and is being held without bail at the Santa Clara County Jail.

His lawyer Chuck Smith said he will enter a plea on Thursday 16 May, his lawyer.

At a post-court news conference, Mr Smith mentioned that Peoples’ military experience may have affected him.

Peoples served in the U.S. army from 2004 to 2006 and in the army reserve from 2006 to 2008.

Mr Smith said: “His mental state is going to be the battleground in the case.

“We’re going to have him evaluated by the best people we can find because, like all veterans, he deserves the best people we can find.

“This is obviously a story that we’re seeing unfold in many, many cases across the country.”

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