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Sunnyvale Police: Driver Targeted Crowd Because He Thought They were Muslim

Investigators say they now know why Isaiah Peoples drove into a crowd on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale on April 23, hitting eight people and seriously injuring four of them.

“Late yesterday afternoon, DPS obtained evidence regarding the motive behind Peoples’ criminal act,” said the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Twitter account on April 26. “He targeted the victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim Faith. We will be providing support to our diverse communities.”

Peoples was arraigned on April 26 and charged with eight counts of attempted murder. Four of the counts have an enhancement for causing great bodily injury. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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“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,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney of Santa Clara County Jay Boyarsky after Peoples’ arraignment.

Investigators say witness statements and evidence from the scene show that this was a deliberate act, but Peoples’ attorney disagrees.

“Absolutely we are disputing that this was an intentional act,” Peoples’ attorney Chuck Smith told the Associated Press after the arraignment. “This act, clearly, was a product of some mental disorder or mental defect that caused this to happen. These announcements by the police, even the chief of police, that this was an intentional act and [Peoples] admitted that he intended to do it, we dispute that; we will challenge that. We don’t think it’s worth, quite frankly, any consideration.”

Peoples received an honorable discharge from the Army in 2006 and was a member of the Army Reserves from 2006-2008. He had no criminal history and was most recently working as a contractor for the Department of Defense.

He is currently being held in Santa Clara County Jail without bail.

Sunnyvale Community Services is working with the City of Sunnyvale and Sunnyvale DPS to collect donations for the eight victims.

“So many people reached out that we contacted the City and said, ‘What would you like to do?’ and they said, ‘Please, go ahead, and we’ll divert the money back to them as we identify needs,’” said Tom Hamilton, Director of Development and Communications of Sunnyvale Community Services. “In this particular case, we have funding mechanisms to collect and then re-disperse the money much easier than the City can. We happen to have the engine to help support that and we’re happy to help in any kind of capacity.”

To find out how you can help, visit www.svcommunityservices.org. All donations will be tax deductible.

Four of the eight victims were either treated on scene or released from the hospital within 24 hours of the incident.

Captain Jim Choi of Sunnyvale DPS says as of today, there is no change in the condition of the four other victims. A 13-year-old girl from Sunnyvale suffered the worst of the injuries and remains in critical condition. Three other people suffered major injuries, but are stable.

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